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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

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Education for Adolescents
GA 302a

22 June 1922, Stuttgart

Today I would like to make a few aphoristic remarks on various pedagogical questions which we discussed in our first course and which I have since added to as I feel necessary at the present time. The Christmas course that I gave in Dornach, which in many ways complements the other explanations on pedagogy, I have not yet been able to print after the postscripts. I hope that this will happen some day. But for the time being it has been appearing continuously in the lectures of Steffen at the "Goetheanum". This reprint in the "Goetheanum" will now also be published in book form, so that at least these lectures by Steffen on this Christmas course, which I consider to be especially important for study by those interested in pedagogy, will be available.

Today I would like to point out some feelings that the teacher, the educator, should always have, and that he should also repeatedly, I would like to say meditatively, call into consciousness. The basic feeling must be what I have expressed in various ways: respect for the individuality of the child. We must be aware that there is a spiritual individuality embodied in every child, and that what we have before us as a physical child is not actually a true expression of the child's individuality. The regularity, the structure of the human organism, as you have seen from much that has come before our souls since the first Teacher's Course, is an extraordinarily complicated one. And for a variety of reasons, that which is the true individuality of a child is prevented from fully expressing itself by obstacles in the physical and also in the etheric organism, so that we actually always have before us in the child the more or less unknown true individuality and that which is actually concealed by the physical of the child. It is also possible to express the same truth in the other form that I tried to say in the public lectures in Vienna: We must be aware that in a certain individuality of a child, if we characterize it radically, there could be a genius, and it could also be that we ourselves as teachers and educators would not be a genius. If this relationship exists, that the child is a genius and the teacher is not a genius, it is a completely justified relationship, because not all teachers can be geniuses, and pedagogy has to deal with the general laws. But, of course, it would be quite wrong if the teacher then wanted to inculcate his own individuality or even his own sympathies and antipathies into the child, if he wanted to teach the child as right, as desirable, etc., what he himself thinks is right and desirable. Of course, he would hold the child back on his level, and we must not do that under any circumstances. We can help ourselves tremendously if we, I would say, once again meditate and become very deeply aware that all education basically has nothing to do with the real individuality of the human being, that we, as educators and teachers, actually have the main task, It is our duty as educators and teachers to stand before individuality with reverence, to offer it the possibility to follow its own laws of development, and to remove only those obstacles to development which lie in the physical-emotional and in the body-emotional, that is, in the physical body and in the etheric body. We are only called upon to remove those inhibitions which lie in the physical-emotional and in the body-emotional and to let the individuality develop freely; so that we should basically use what we teach the child in terms of knowledge only to bring the body, both the physical-emotional and the etheric-emotional, so far forward that the human being can just develop freely.

My dear friends, this seems abstract, but it is the most concrete thing in education, and at the same time it points to where one makes the most mistakes. Many people say that it is necessary to develop the individuality of the child. This is as true as it is empty. For if the physical and etheric inhibitions were not there, the individuality of each child would develop properly in life. But we have to remove these physical and etheric inhibitions. Just think of the terrible things we do when we teach six, seven, eight year old children to read and write. It is not often enough that this is brought home to us in all its gravity. For when the child grows up to be six, seven, eight years old, he really brings nothing with him to point out or even to imitate those little demonic things that appear before him on paper. There is no human relationship to the letter forms of today. Therefore, we must be aware of the fact that there is a terrible gap between what has developed in the later course of human civilization and what the child in his 7th year is. Today we have to teach the child something that it certainly does not want, so that it can grow into today's civilization. And if we don't want to spoil the child, we have to proceed in such a way that we treat the child in these years as it needs to be treated, so that the obstacles to its development are removed and it is gradually led, after the obstacles to its development are removed, to the point of view of the soul, to the state of the soul, where the adult people stood in that period of culture when the present forms of writing came into being. The nature of the child itself gives cause for this, of course.

You see, today experiments are being conducted on the tiredness of children. The fact that such figures have been found should not be the end of the research, but the beginning. We should ask ourselves: Why are children so tired? - We are looking at a system, we are looking at the head system, and probably also at the metabolic system and the limb system, which are tired, while the rhythmic system, which is in the highest flower of its development from the change of teeth to sexual maturity, is not really tired. For the heart beats even when it is tired, and the respiratory rhythm and all rhythms go on unharmed by any fatigue, so that the present figures of experimental psychology say something different from what is usually assumed today. They say that the rhythmic system is not taken into account enough in the education of children. But the rhythmic system is stimulated directly from the soul when the whole teaching is artistic, plastic-artistic or musical-artistic. Then you will find that the child will hardly get tired to a great extent because of this kind of teaching. And the teacher should indeed acquire a watchful eye to see whether his children tire too much; he should acquire a certain instinct to see whether the fatigue is much greater than it should be according to the mere external conditions, whether the air in the classroom is somewhat worse than it should be, whether the children have to sit for hours on end, that is, the purely physical things that occupy the metabolic-limb organism. On the other hand, the child has to think. If the thoughts echo in a quiet rhythm, they are not too tired. They get a little tired, but not too tired. The rhythmic system is the physical organ of education and teaching that must be used especially by the child. Now, in the subjects that are not directly artistic, we must try to make the teaching as artistic as possible. This must be taken very seriously, for this is the only real means of education: the artistic between the change of teeth and sexual maturity.

Yesterday I said that what is very important for this age of life is that we transform everything into the image, either into the musical image or into the plastic image. Now, of course, you may find how extraordinarily difficult it is in some subjects to work through the image. It will be relatively easy to work through the image in history, where you can make an image of what you are describing; it will be relatively easy in this or that subject, for example, in natural history, where you should also make an image of what you want to teach the child. In other subjects it will be more difficult. In languages, for example, it will not be so difficult to bring things into the picture, if one attaches any importance at all to taking the pictorial aspect of language into account in teaching. One should not miss any opportunity to look at how sentences are structured, for example, a three-part sentence structure consisting of the main clause, the relative clause and the conditional clause, even with ten, eleven, twelve-year-old children. Not true, the grammatical aspect is not the main thing; it should be treated by us only as a means to get the picture, but we should not neglect to give the child, I would say, even a spatial-visual idea of a main clause and a relative clause. Of course, this can be done in many different ways. You can make the main proposition a large circle, the relative proposition a small circle, perhaps placed eccentrically - without theorizing, by staying in the picture - and you can make the conditional proposition, the if proposition, so vivid that you introduce, say, rays against the circle as the conditional factors. It is not necessary to exaggerate these things, but it is really necessary to come back to these things again and again after a good preparation of the subject. And even with ten-, eleven-, twelve-year-old children, one should pay attention to what I would call the moral-characterological aspects of pictorial style. Not that you should have style lessons at that age. We discussed yesterday where that should be in the class. Rather, the matter should be grasped more from the inner intuitive. You can go very far. For example, you can treat the individual reading piece, not the pedantic reading pieces that are in our reading books, but what you really prepare carefully, you can treat it according to your temperament. You can talk about a melancholic style or a choleric style, not about the content. So please leave out the content completely, even the poetic content, I mean the sentence structure. There is no need to take things apart, which should be avoided; but the transformation into the image, which should be cultivated, when I say: into the moral-characterological. One can find the possibility to have a stimulating effect on the children already in the 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th years, if one restrains oneself in an appropriate way to make the necessary studies..

You see, my dear friends, I do not want to mend anybody's things, I only want to characterize something. Again, at our Vienna Congress, I was able to make quite meaningful studies, meaningful for me, when I compared the attitude, the stylistic attitude of those who spoke, let us say, from Northern Germany, and those who spoke as our Viennese, who were called here. I always thought to myself, when Baravalle or Stein or another Viennese comes again, will he again begin his lecture with "if"? That is so characteristic of the Austrian, it is infinitely meaningful to begin with a conditional sentence, it immediately leads into the moral-characterological. I think you yourself are hardly aware of how you begin your lectures with "If"! The North Germans and the Swiss do not begin with "if," they immediately blurt out an unconditional, affirmative sentence. This is so characteristic, and this is how one should learn to approach things, first of all, so that one can become free, if I may say so, from one's own conditions, and so that in this becoming free one can also achieve an artistic treatment, which is not pedantic, an artistic treatment of any teaching material. If you learn to pay attention to such things, you can achieve an artistic treatment of any subject. And I would like to point out that it is extremely important to feel oneself in artistic things in such a way that one pays attention to details in artistic things, if one wants to be a good teacher for children from the change of teeth to sexual maturity. Again, look at the photographs*; look at how Dr. Kolisko and Walleen are standing, and do not look at them with an interpretive, commenting sense, but look at them with an artistic sense, and you will see how much they give you. It is very important not to force things like that; of course, if you make a judgment with your mind, that someone always holds a folder in a certain hand position and things like that, it comes out immediately as nonsense. But if you grasp it with an artistic sense, something comes out that cannot be completely put into words, but which pours the artistic into your limbs in a tremendously significant way, which is exactly what you need as an educator. It is very important to be able to transform things into a picture, because the picture brings the things that we want to teach the child closer to the human being.

With what we, after our own scientific education, what we have taken up and what we are always confronted with when we prepare ourselves - the books we prepare ourselves from contain nothing but abominations - we burden ourselves with something that is scientific systematics, and when we do not have enough time to get rid of the whole thing - when we prepare ourselves for a lesson, we have to take a contemporary book in which things are arranged scientifically - then this haunts our minds. When we bring this to the children, it is something that is not possible. And we have to realize that this causes us great difficulties, that today scientific systematics, not human systematics, have crept into the preparation books that we can use. So we have to get rid of it absolutely. We have to get everything that we bring into the school for this age absolutely free of all scientific systematics.

And here it is good to remember times when older children, older young people were taught in such a way that it was taken for granted that the appeal was not to the head, but to the whole person. One only has to remember the medieval education: grammar, rhetoric, dialectic, where it was not important to teach this or that, but to get the child to be able to express himself in a sentence that was grammatically correct. There, grammar was not taught, but the child was given the opportunity to think in such a pictorial way that his sentences had a pictorial character. Then, not true, rhetoric: the child should be accustomed to feel the beauty of the word in its formation; dialectic: the child should be accustomed to let the thought free in itself, and so on; there it was a matter of ability. And basically it must also come to ability in the most spiritual things, from the change of teeth to sexual maturity. But the ability is reached only at that age when everything is brought into the picture.

Well, that's where the trivialities sometimes play an extraordinarily large role. For example, when presenting mathematics, it really makes a difference whether you put one line of letters that is wider and then another that is shorter, whether you put it at the beginning or in the middle. You can make a picture out of what is an arithmetic operation at the end, which the students have in front of them, and put a certain value on something like that, so that even what you write on the blackboard becomes a picture; that even in the trivialities these things are thoroughly taken into account. Sometimes there are opportunities to bring out the picture from a very special corner of life, I would say. Mathematical formulas or sequences of formulas can sometimes be described by figures that are immediately perceived as beautiful. We should not miss such opportunities. It would be a sin and a pity if we missed such an opportunity to make something descriptive, which might be a kind of unnecessary tendril for those who can only think in a philistine way. We should gradually inoculate the philistro-logical way out of our souls for this age, if I may say so. Today we inoculate it much too much more and more. We should inoculate it out; we should work with all our might towards the imaginative or towards the musical, and then actually come close to rhythm for this age of life.

And now we should not close our minds to the realization that truly imponderables play a great role in the totality of teaching. You see, in our very first pedagogical courses, we spoke of a pedagogical relationship between the four temperaments. The task of the educator is to study these four temperaments in the child continuously, to study them in such a way that he can take them into account continuously. This is because, as I say, the right karma of a class is created through the right treatment of the temperaments of the children in the class. After all, such a class is together; they are souls that are together. As they work with the teacher and with each other, a part of their life karma is played out. All kinds of threads of life are being spun, but a piece of karma is being played out; especially between the 7th and 14th years, a piece of karma is being played out very strongly. And how the individual temperaments work into that karma is what we should look at. In this respect, the class can be a constant subject of inner apercus, if we let this be the quiet undertone of our pedagogical work. And above all, one should not let it happen that in any class there are sleeping, co-sleeping students. By sleeping students I mean those who, during the course of the lesson, give only half or three-quarters or a quarter of their whole being. It can happen that the few gifted ones, as they are usually called - they are not always - show up and the others remain asleep. Then the lesson will be really lively with a few, and the others will always be a kind of extras, and this is what must be avoided at all costs. Because, of course, this becoming an extra or being a chatterbox - I don't mean that in a bad way - is also based on other moments. But it is also based on the contrast of temperaments. Of course, among the students there are those who have, let's say, a sanguine or even a choleric temperament, and they will always show off, and you will always have to deal with them if you don't pay special pedagogical attention to them; and there are others, the more melancholic, phlegmatic ones, who then become the extras. This must be avoided at all costs, because the best thing we can do for the students who think more quickly and speak more easily is to make those who think more slowly and do not open their mouths so readily take part in everything, speak, cooperate, and so on. It is absolutely necessary that we go along with this inconvenience. Then we will feel that for a short time we may make less progress than if we left the extras to themselves, but in the long run it will be different. In the long run it will turn out that we have a tremendous effect on the memory retention of the children by not allowing the extras. What is justified in memory is essentially supported by the fact that we do not allow extras.

And so I would say that the possibility of working quite pictorially depends also on the effectiveness of these imponderables. We will see from experience that if we allow all the temperaments, all the possible dispositions of a class to really live themselves out, that for the age from the change of teeth to sexual maturity we are much more likely to arrive at a pictoriality seated in the soul than if we do not. Of course, a certain, I would say, strong devotion to the lesson is necessary if the things to be taught are really always to be taught with the consideration that they will become pictorial; but nevertheless, one should never end a lesson for this age without giving the child something pictorial. Those who are able to draw with the children from the very beginning have an easier time in this respect; but those who, let us say, give the children something pictorial, for example in languages or arithmetic, have all the more effect on them. And, in fact, there is no other real preparation for the educator for this pictorial work than that which I have indicated: to sharpen our sense of observation of life in such a way that we can respond objectively to what life reveals, especially in the human being. A healthy artistic physiognomics, not only human physiognomics, but also, for example, animal physiognomics, should indeed be revived among educators, a healthy, not the sentimental physiognomics of Lavater and the like, but a healthy physiognomics in which the pictorial is sought, without going so far as to close the concept, staying in the picture, being satisfied with it, when one has brought things into the picture, such a healthy physiognomy should be revived, and it will then pass over of itself into all kinds of actions, into all kinds of processes that the teacher develops during the lesson. Nowhere should we pay so much attention to the how and not so much to the what as in teaching and education. It is not the what that is important, but the fact that the what appears in a certain way, in a certain way in the lesson. And there is no greater enemy for the teacher than an incomplete preparation, because it always makes him stop at the "what," whereas a complete preparation always makes him go from the "what" to the "how," makes him rejoice to see how he can prepare it for the child, how he can form it before the child, because the forming itself has become like an inspiration and the like. We should not shrink back when we ourselves often bring incomprehensible things to the children in this respect. Incomprehensible things which the children accept on our authority - and for the children, between the change of teeth and sexual maturity, authority decides - are better taught to the children than trivial things which are comprehensible to them and which they grasp out of their own intellect.

These are quite, I would say, finer nuances of what the teacher, the educator, should do with his own soul life. You will notice, if you perhaps look again at the Christmas course on education, that there is actually everywhere an emphasis on answering the question: How do we form the shell of the human being, the physical body, the etheric body? - Not, how do we form the individuality? That will form itself. If you say, "How do we form the physical body? -...people today, in this materialistic age, have no idea that it is only through the spiritual-mental processes, the spiritual-mental processes that you develop during the teaching, that you form the physical body.

For example, suppose a child stumbles over its own words, cannot find the next word. You see, in the child, before he has reached sexual maturity, this stumbling over his own words is a trait that is still based in physical corporeality in the Upper Man. The upper man is the man in physical relationship, who undergoes his main development in the first and even in the infantile period of life. If you find the possibility to find out the right tempo for what you make the child sing, tell, to get the right tempo for such a person who makes us wait there when he has to look for the transition from one word to the other, then you are in a position to cure this in the child up to sexual maturity absolutely from the spiritual. You are removing a physical inhibition. If you have not removed it from the physical up to sexual maturity, then you have formed its counterpart in the metabolic limb system, then it has become a property of the intestines, then you cannot get it out. Then whatever you do in the ordinary sense as spiritual practices will not help you. They have to be done in such a way that they affect the digestive system, and of course it is not always possible to introduce this, I would say, in a general way. That would lead to the abuse of certain exercises. But with the child, we have to watch carefully to see if he goes from one word to another, from one thought to another, subnormally slowly. And in the child we can still make the body healthy. We make the digestive system sick if we do not cure such waiting from one word to another in youth. This is our duty, and it is more important than any content - which we need, because we have to teach, and therefore we have to have content - to teach the child. This is simply how the mind works in the whole physical organism. In order to learn to control the physical organism in the right way, we have to know the spiritual science, because it is the spirit that works in the physical organism. Therefore, we need to bring healthy medical thinking closer to educational thinking in a certain way. So that we really know how to take such a thing seriously, let us say that when it is said in the Old Testament that someone was tormented by bad dreams, the expression is not used: My brain has done something special, God has afflicted me through my brain. - No one who was active in the Old Testament would have said that. But he said: God is afflicting me through my kidneys. - And why? For the simple reason that it is true. People today are proud to know that spiritual things come from the brain, and they arrogantly disregard what is written in the Old Testament. Not only the brain is spiritualized, but the whole organism is spiritualized. Dreams, for example, come from the kidneys; the expression in the Old Testament is very serious. Just as it is clever in the modern sense to say that compassion also comes from the brain; but in the deeper sense it is nonsense, and the Old Testament form, that compassion comes from the bowels, is the correct one.

And so we must know that when we approach the child with the soul-spiritual, we are treating its whole body. We are the very ones who, with medical wisdom, take care of the physical-spiritual of the child when we do this or that in the construction of sentences, in the treatment of colors, in the treatment of sounds, in the treatment of this or that object. We are influencing the whole physical; for in the physical is the spirit, and we are influencing this spirit, not only the spirit which is only directly in the brain, for there, strangely enough, is the most ineffective thing. And so we must see ourselves as educators, either as people who are constantly bringing up in children something that nourishes and shapes life, or something that is poisonous and destroys the body. If we exaggerate a little in the direction of formalism, if we make the children think until they are tired, then we condemn them between the ages of 7 and 14 to relatively early sclerosis. We just have to be aware that we are working on the whole life when we develop this or that in the child's environment in education and teaching. And if we are not aware of this, we will certainly not approach pedagogical issues in the right way: We are really entitled to remove only the obstacles and hindrances that arise from the physical and etheric nature of man.

As for the rest, today's man, who is much more selfish than he thinks, will naturally say - this seems right to me, that seems wrong to me - and will then bring up the child to feel and think as much as possible like himself. That, of course, is wrong. What is right in all matters is life - not the individual teacher - whom we must ask. Today, of course, we have to teach a child to write. I must confess that I cannot find in myself any judgment of taste that would give me an answer directly from human nature as to whether a child should learn to write or not; it arises only from consideration of the development of civilization. Mankind has now come to the point where a certain content of civilization has an effect on the way of writing and reading. In order to educate the child not for another world but for this world, we must teach him to read and write. This is something we must accept as a condition of civilization, and we must remove the obstacles to development that come with living in a certain age. We have an enormous amount of work to do if we want to answer the question: How can we make the objects that are already given for the human development of the child as harmless as possible? - Because we can always assume that by giving the child a certain material, we are doing the child more harm than good. So we must always ask ourselves: How can we avoid the harm that must always be done when we teach the child something? Well, of course, this is all the less true the more artistic the material is, and all the more true the more cognitive the material is. But this fact must always be before our minds. And now we should be very clear about this: the right authoritative relationship that should exist between the change of teeth and sexual maturity between the educator and the child, this right authoritative relationship is brought about under no other circumstances than when we make an effort to make the teaching artistic-pictorial. If we can do that, then the authoritative relationship will certainly develop. You see, what undermines the authoritative relationship is one-sided intellectuality. Of course, it is easiest to cultivate one-sided intellectuality in the fields of arithmetic, science, and so on. But it is there that we should work into the pictorial. Often we are too unimaginative in language teaching. Let us be clear about this: when we create figuratively, there is a certain selflessness involved. It is much easier to think cleverly, it is much more selfish to think cleverly, than to create pictorially; and we face the child unselfishly when we create pictorially in our teaching. When the child has reached sexual maturity, and knowledge is to pass into cognition, then, because its intellect is now awakened, it simply rejects the judgment of the teacher, the educator, of its own accord. Then nothing is achieved by mere authority, then we have to be able to compete, then we really have to compete with the child, because actually at the age of 17 one is as clever as at the age of 35 in terms of the ability to judge. There are certain nuances, but basically you are as smart at 17 as you are at 35 in terms of formal logic. So you really have to compete with the child as soon as they reach sexual maturity. And therefore, what I said yesterday, that one must not show oneself in any way, must come true. Of course, this will be easy for the younger child if you devote yourself to an artistic organization of the lessons. And a great deal will be achieved if one gets a feeling for how different parts of one or the other can be formed artistically in different ways. Let's say you take the children through a series of plants. You talk about the blossoms; now you try to describe the blossoms in the whole tone, I would say, up to the tone of voice, in such a way that the whole words and ideas are something flowing, that they are light. Now, when you develop this, you try to appeal to the sanguine children in particular, so that the sanguine children contribute to the whole class what they have especially in the ability to perceive, in the easy ability to perceive, let us say, for such ideas as an artistic person develops when he describes blossoms. If you turn to the leaves, you may find that you strike such a tone that the melancholy children are more interested in the leaves; the dialog with the class now passes to the melancholy children. If you describe the roots, which are not usually seen, but which you can describe in such a way that their power can be felt in the flowers, if you describe what is usually invisible, then you must no longer describe statically, but dynamically, and then the choleric children help you to have a real dialog. In this way the whole class can be used for mutual stimulation, if only one develops the sense for it, which can become instinctive. Only, isn't it, it is necessary to pay attention to such things.

Well, actually the thing is that you imagine it to be much more difficult than it actually is. Because once you have brought yourself a quarter in such a direction, then you yourself have the need to bring yourself in 'such a direction'. But there is a catch. You start with great desire. You say to yourself: I want to do this now, I really want to create a picture, I want to create a picture for the lessons, tomorrow I will start. - Now it goes on for eight days, but after that you get lazy, and that is the catch. You have to persevere for a quarter of a year, and then you have to persevere longer. Eight days won't do it, but a quarter of a year will do it, if you are serious about training yourself for a quarter of a year.

And now today, my dear friends, I do not want to have given you one rule or another for one thing or another in class. Perhaps we will always organize pedagogical lectures at future meetings, so that we always move forward. But I would have liked to give you something today that would have made you meditate and put you in a pedagogical and pedagogical mood. I would have liked to see an arm move differently here and there in a class, so that it would create a different image in front of the students. Sometimes I wish that the always unimaginative bumpiness, for example, would not be one of the first things in the classroom. Sometimes I wish that this or that ungraceful wiping of the blackboard would be replaced by a more graceful one. All this comes naturally. It is worked out from the unartistic to the artistic when the general sense for it is there, and the general sense is actually much more important for the pedagogue than the individual dogmatic rule. I would like you to have taken up this today, which draws your attention to the importance of the heartbeat with which one is in pedagogy.