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The Renewal of Education
GA 301

VII. The Problem of Teacher Training

29 April 1920, Basel

What is most important for me in these lectures is to show to what extent spiritual science can make education more fruitful. Of course it is not possible to develop a complete system of pedagogy in fourteen lectures. In these first considerations, I have already indicated that I do not believe a renewal of education is necessary, since present educational principles contain many good things. I believe that primarily a refreshing of education is necessary. Spiritual science is certainly appropriate for bringing new life into educational practice based upon many of the wonderful educational theories thatalready exist, because spiritual science attempts to comprehend the living spirit. Such comprehension of the living spirit, which is a source of enlivening for both the will and the feeling, is particularly necessary in pedagogy. Furthermore, spiritual science is a source of a genuine understanding of the human being that is particularly appropriate for working with children.

I would like to remark that it is clear that alongside of any form of education, whether it is oriented more toward the intellect or toward the soul, the human being must also be educated in feelings, primarily in a moral and religious sense. Particularly in the development of ethical and moral attitudes and of a religious sense, we need to work with the entire human being. Whenever we wish to have an effect upon the attitudes or will of the entire person, we must take into account the transformation and changes that human beings undergo both as children and in later life. To such changes in later life it is necessary that we give the proper impulse, particularly during the time of education.

But it is impossible to teach anything in connection with morals, attitudes or religion if, during the course of education, we do not first create some way of accessing the human soul and spirit. It would be a major error to believe that we can simply set up rules that people should do this or that in regard to their attitudes or religion or morality. The situation is actually quite different, and we can describe it in the following way.

If in my teaching, particularly with children up to the age of nine, I can create a connection with the child’s soul, the child will allow me to guide her in a moral or religious connection. If I cannot create such a relationship, if I teach in such a way that the child closes her feelings off from me, the child will be unreachable by even the best moral or religious guidance. It is particularly unhelpful to give in to illusions, even if we are doing so on the grounds that we are overcoming some of the cultural damage of our times. We cannot, for example, allow ourselves to be influenced by doctrines that understand the immortality of the human soul only in one sense.

In this area we chiefly try to make sure that people have a good understanding and a healthy feeling in regard to going through the gates of death, in regard to the further life of the soul after death. Such knowledge might seem to be merely theoretical, but it is not. Every action that we undertake in life, everything we do or say, particularly how we do or say it, depends upon a person’s view of this major life question. Although the various confessions of the immortality of human soul are absolutely correct, they nevertheless arise out of egotism in a certain number of people. They have developed out of human egotism. While it is necessary to speak to people (and to children in particular) about life after death—a truth that is certainly well-anchored in spiritual science—when we speak about this by itself, we reflect only the egotism of human nature that wants to continue to live after the body has been given over to the earth. But in doing so, we shut people out from the tasks of their earthly life. In particular, we as teachers shut ourselves out from the task of developing human beings when we think and act under the influence of such one-sided perspectives.

We need to recognize that earthly life is the continuation of a supersensible life. We need to look at what lives in us as spirit-soul as something that has moved from a supersensible world and connected itself with our physical bodies. It is very important to look at growing children in that way. If you look without prejudice, every child is a riddle to be solved, particularly for educators. If you look in this way at a growing child and say to yourself that what is presented here in earthly life is a continuation of the spiritual life, and it is our responsibility to guide what that divine being wanted in being incarnated in a human being, then we will be overcome by a feeling of holiness without which it is not possible to educate. We will have a feeling of solving a riddle when we are confronted with a developing human being. To imbue life here in the physical world with the character of a continuation of a spiritual life is something very important when we recognize it.

This is an important example of how differently an educator will act depending on his attitude. In external life, what is of primary importance is how a person acts. However, in being confronted by developing human beings, by children, we are also confronted with the innermost aspect of human nature. Our attitudes will inevitably affect theirs, and what is important here is the influences which lie at the basis of our attitude. An attitude of reverence will encourage a sense of responsibility toward the task of education. And without that sense of responsibility, we can achieve nothing in teaching. Everything must be permeated by it. I particularly hope that you will be permeated by this feeling, even though it appears to be so distant from the topic we are here to discuss.

Human beings derive their activities from two sources, as I said yesterday. One source is an indication more of what a human being brings into physical life from superphysical life. The other source is more an indication of what the human being should create out of life here. When we realize this, we will also be able to see the difference between what a human being brings into life and what is to be developed through this life. When I said how the intellect is born with the change of teeth and how the will moves into a human being with puberty, I characterized these two sources from two standpoints, although there are many others. When we focus upon the intellect, we are looking more at what a person brings into physical existence through birth. When we turn our attention to the will, we should be aware that we are primarily dealing with what a person should take in from the physical world in order to embed it into his higher nature. Inevery disharmony and harmony with the world that occurs through physical life, the human will is developed; that, in a certain sense, becomeshuman will. What is present as the intellect in human nature we must attempt to coax out.

In simply stating that, we can see many misunderstandings that arise in stating educational truths. People always want to say things in one-sided ways when these things actually have two sides in life. They either say that we must draw everything out of the human being or that we must put everything into it. Both are incorrect, of course. It is true that to a certain extent we need to draw everything that is naturally imaginative out of human nature. On the other hand, for everything concerned with the will, the experiences that we present to a human being are what is formative. People draw upon life for their will. For this reason it is important how we are connected to the children’s developing will, so that they can imitate us, seeing that what we say we also do. At around the age of seven, these patterns become authority for them. We need to place the child in such an environment so that she herself can draw upon as many experiences as possible to develop the will.

Here you can see how much of what people call the question of education is actually a question about the qualities of the teacher. Before I continue in this consideration, which I began yesterday, I would like to characterize the element that should permeate all of instruction, at least from one perspective.

Once again, it is possible to be very one-sided. Because of your own nature, you could fill your instruction with seriousness, with a face that can never laugh, that can only reprimand. It is also possible, if you have the tendency, to bring very little seriousness into your teaching. Both of these lead to extraordinarily damaging results later in life. It is as if someone were to think about whether inhaling is better than exhaling. Of course what is important is that human beings must both inhale and exhale; when a person who should exhale wants to inhale, that goes against nature. Just as there is a strict rhythm in the human being according to which there are on the average eighteen breaths taken in a minute, the entirety of human life is based upon rhythm. One part of that rhythm is the interplay between humor and seriousness.

Humor is based upon people getting away from themselves in a certain way. With humor, we move onto the path toward dreaming. Although we remain completely conscious, moving toward humor is the beginning of the path to dreaming. This loss of self is expressed through smiling or laughing. In these acts, the spirit-soul—or what we in spiritual science call the I and the astral body—moves out in a certain way from the physical and the etheric, although people still remain in control. Through humor, people expand in their soul and spirit aspects.

Let us now look at extreme examples of seriousness, such as crying and becoming sad. In these cases people are more compressed. The spirit-soul is more closely connected with the physical body than it is when we are in a neutral mood. A humorous attitude is an expansion of the soul and spirit, whereas a serious mood brings the spirit-soul aspect of human nature into closer contact with the physical body. We could also say that through laughing, a human being becomes more altruistic, and through seriousness, more egotistic.

An objection could be made to this assertion. If I say that seriousness makes people egotistical, then we can certainly preach that human beings should fight egotism. But what would happen if people fought egotism out of their own egotism, so that they perceived themselves as being unegotistical, as being unselfish? So that when they thought about the situation, they realized that they had created within themselves a passion for unselfishness? When someone satisfies her egotism by taking pleasure in loving many people, that is a much better gift than being unselfish in order to earn selfpraise. We need to consider such things in a way that corresponds to human nature rather than interpreting them in a way that leads to an increase of passion within the soul. What is important here is that the rhythm in the human being between humor and seriousness supports the soul-spirit life in the same way that inhaling and exhaling support physical life. Just as exhaling is a kind of turning toward the external world and becoming more foreign to oneself, while inhaling gives physical pleasure to a person’s egotism, humor is something whereby the human being expands and seriousness is something whereby the human being collects himself egotistically. Children need to move between these two moods through a teacher’s guidance.

Now it is of course extraordinarily difficult if, when you enter the classroom with a kind of self-imposed responsibility, you say to yourself that you should alternate between being humorous and serious. To give yourself such a task is impossible. It’s silly. It is something that cannot be. No one could expect me to include humorous things in my instruction immediately after a difficult personal experience. However, such an abstract feeling of responsibility is not necessary if you determine the content of what you should be enthusiastic about in the instruction in spiritual science. If you prepare for the class in a spiritual-scientificway, you will live in the individual portions of what you are to teach in an objective and impersonal way. If I come into a classroom at three in the afternoon to present something to the children and if I have schooled myself in the material in the same way I have learned to school myself in spiritual science, the material will be something through which I no longer need to take the external world into account. My own attitudes will disappear. The material itself will provide me with humor and seriousness at the right times, and things will just go by themselves.

This is an example of how spiritual science can help in practical education, right down to affecting the attitude of the teacher. It is necessary to see a doctor if I cannot properly breathe in order to restore the breathing process if possible. So the health-giving influence of a spiritual-scientific education is necessary for those people who are to have a healthy influence upon children. It is quite possible, of course, that on the way to school you may be justified in hanging your head in thinking about some terrible things that have happened to you. However, when you enter the classroom, you will become aware of what the task is for today, and you yourself no longer speak. It is not joy and sorrow that speaks. The things we teach are what speak; they move our fingers when we draw with chalk or when we write or do something else.

This shows that what is important at present is not to create new principles of education. Instead what is needed is a new spiritual structure that enables us to carry out our tasks without subjective influences. The teachers at the Waldorf School attempt to train themselves in this or at least to draw it out of human nature. During the short time we have worked there, we have in fact achieved something I could describe in the following way. For the sake of discretion, I will describe it as abstractly as possible.

Some have disagreed with my selection of teachers. They have told me that one teacher or another may not be very good, he may be too pedantic. I have not allowed myself to be influenced by that. But if a person has correct spiritual moral and feeling capacities, it is not necessary to consider whether that person is pedantic or not. What is important is to show the person how his or her pedantic tendencies can be properly brought into the service of humanity. If we had to remove all pedantic tendencies in people, we would certainly see how little is left over. If you take up spiritual science in a living way, it makes it easier to explain a specific, concrete area of life in an objective way, because the subjective characteristics of pedantry cease to be effective. In fact those people who were described as pedantic have become very exciting teachers after they found their way into teaching through a spiritual-scientific attitude. It is not at all important to act according to one or another preconceived idea. Instead we should act according to life. That is something we need in the present. Socialism wants to reform the entire world according to a theory. With regard to the development of humanity, the task of the present is to act according to life.

Everything I have said today is, in a way, the flip side of what I said yesterday about teaching languages, eurythmy, gymnastics, and so forth. What I discussed yesterday can be properly achieved by the teacher only when the teacher behaves in the way I have described today.

This leads me into a particularly interesting question that I was asked and which is closely connected with what I have just now described. It was indicated to me that a twelve-and-a-half-year-old girl had a B in behavior. While discussing an essay, she mentioned that in a private school, she always had good grades, but always a B in behavior. She told me that she then had a teacher she liked very much and never had a B, but that later his son taught the class and these bad grades in behavior started up again and continued in our school until the present time.

Much of what we have said today could have an extraordinarily high impact upon this question. You see, there are two things that are necessary in teaching. One is that we understand how to draw as much as possible out of the child, something we do at first through imagination. The other is that we work with the children in such a way that the child can like us.

There are all kinds of things in which we can, with some effort, try to train ourselves so that they become instinct. This is a complicated psychological problem into which we really cannot enter today. It is, however, true that many things that may require much effort to learn will come to others so simply, almost instinctively. One such thing is that a group of children just loves the person. That is very beautiful when it happens. What is important in regard to the development of culture and civilization, though, is that we achieve something similar through a certain kind of selftraining. We can achieve that if we try to relate to the world in the way that we must if we are to take up spiritual science. As I mentioned before, we cannot take up spiritual science as though we were sitting in the theatre and watching a film. We can only take it up when we are inwardly active. As I said before, you should read my book An Outline of Esoteric Science, but if you read it without any inner experience and take what I say there simply as a guide for your own thoughts, then the entirety of spiritual science will be just like straw. For that reason, spiritual science is for many people simply straw. If, however, you read it so that it is like an orchestral score that you first only understand when you have drawn all the details out of yourself, then, through drawing that out of yourself, you will develop those forces that otherwise remain hidden in human nature.

It is just those forces that develop relationships, particularly in children, that in a sense draw children’s attention to us. If we have gone through the process of drawing out those spiritual forces within us, then we can create a direct connection from one soul to another between ourselves and the child. That connection has tremendous significance in attitudinal and moral guidance as well as in training the child’s will. It would be hardly possible for you to keep a class that is made up of 40 percent uncontrollable children simply through moral reprimands that come out of you like abstract rules. Often, through the tone of your voice or the energy you put into your voice, you can achieve that for a short period. But you can achieve nothing lasting in that way.

Perhaps, however, you could attempt to have some experiences with the following. When preparing for your classes, in addition to your normal preparation, try to add a kind of meditative preparation. Add something that has not the least to do with the material you are to present, but has more to do with raising your own soul, that has something to do with imbuing some material or some feeling that opens the world to you. When in the evening you have gone through such a meditative inner view, and you enliven that view so that on the next morning you can recall it and in a sense reexperience it, then you will notice an effect when you go into the classroom. This may sound as though I am telling you some superstition, but these are things that cannot be comprehended through any theory. You need to see them. When you observe them you will find them confirmed. Most people today are not particularly interested in observing such things. But we will have to become accustomed to such observations if we are to come out of the misery of the present time. From them corresponding convictions will arise, particularly for a type of education that is meant to include all of humanity. With the student I described before, it is quite clear that when she said she loved the teacher, her training in will was under the direct influence of that personal relationship. Although we can philosophize about this as much as we want, all training in will is always under the sway of personal relationships until children are past the age of puberty.

Now I come to another extremely interesting question. In every elementary school, particularly in boys’ schools, you will find at least one boy who, although not in any way weak-minded, appears to be extraordinarily dumb in every subject, but who has a considerable talent for drawing. He has a certain instinct for observing and a genuine feeling for art. The remaining dumbness is nearly always connected to a kind of moral weakness and a brooding egotism. Such a boy does not seem to have the energy to come out of himself. What insight can a spiritual-scientific consideration of such a situation give? How should a teacher treat such a student in order to develop his intellectual capacities as well as the moral strength to carry out his own decisions?

When confronted with so concrete, so personal a question, I have the feeling of standing before unscalable walls. If you attempt to penetrate facts in the world through spiritual science, you can no longer consider such things superficially. At first you will have an uneasy feeling when working from the spiritual-scientific perspective in regard to such basic questions, even though you may have a great deal to say about them based upon all the many theories. You know, however, that regardless of how much you philosophize, you cannot find anything that will lead to an answer because life nearly always shows individual facts in individual situations and with special nuances, and you must first understand those nuances. With spiritual science you will almost always be led to the experience. Out of that experience you will work to find an answer.

I would now like to show you how you can attempt to find a way of overcoming to an extent the insurmountable hindrances that life may present. I knew a boy who I could also continue to observe as a young man who had a remarkable weakness in the will. It was so acute that he could stand in the street, for instance, and decide to take a given streetcar to go somewhere. But when the streetcar came, he was unable to sufficiently gather his will together and board it. He thought about going to his destination with the streetcar, but he was unable to board it, so he stood there after the streetcar had gone by. I knew just such a boy who as a young man was an extraordinarily intelligent and progressive person, and that was a real riddle for me at first. I solved the riddle in a rather remarkable way. I was aware that the boy’s father, whom I also knew, held the view that it was unnecessary to develop the will.1 His thoughts were thus concentrated upon, in a sense, talking away the will as a characteristic of the soul. Now I had a path. The father’s perspective was not actually a part of his nature; it had not actually affected his own organs. But what was a thought with the father had become habitual with the son. Possibly what the son had received from the father through heredity was strengthened by hearing similar thoughts expressed. Maybe the father did not always say explicitly that the will was not a part of the soul, but this was the perspective implied. People grow into life through very complicated situations.

It lies in human nature to develop the three capacities of the soul, namely, thinking, feeling, and willing. But some feeling also enters into our thoughts. We never actually have pure thinking unless we strictly train ourselves to do it, or when we devote ourselves to the ideals of morality or religion. In normal life, however, in thinking about the external world or when thinking together with other people, we are always using thoughts that contain some degree of feeling. We can therefore say that our thoughts are related to our feelings. Our feelings are reflected in our thoughts because they are stimulated by those thoughts, by the kind of thinking we do. On the other hand, our will also interacts with our feeling. There is quite a difference between will and will. The will can be what I would call a more neutral impulse or it can contain the warmth of feeling. Some people have a tendency to strengthen feeling at the cost of willing so that feeling is overemphasized and the will comes up short. With such people during childhood, what should actually enter the will is held in feeling. Thus they are satisfied with the picture of an action and never actually go on to act. That is the sort of person I am talking about here. We need to see how the feelings of such children react to one thing or another. Then we should not be satisfied only with what we see, but we should try to direct them toward the things that bring them into movement.

With children who exhibit this kind of moral weakness, an ensouled gymnastics of the sort I have described as eurythmy has a healthy effect. This is assuming that eurythmy, where human beings draw not only with their hands but with their entire bodies in space, is taught to them by the age of nine.

It is important to look at the interactions between human capacities. If you have learned to observe life, you will learn to guide the influences that act upon the child in such a way that the forces of the soul and those of the entire human being are brought into appropriate interaction. Spiritual-scientific training, when properly carried out, guides a person toward observing life. In general, people forget the most important facts of life, or they do not find the proper rhythm between humor and seriousness. You have not found the proper rhythm if you simply laugh at a young person who allows the streetcar to pass by. Such a person is certainly an object of humor, but you need to be able to move from humor into seriousness. We cannot remain merely with one or the other. This view of life is particularly necessary for teachers, and this is what is developed in us through a proper spiritual-scientific training.