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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

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Education and Instruction
GA 302a

15 September 1920, Stuttgart

Translator Unknown

This single lecture is the 1st of 9 lectures in the lecture series entitled, Education and Instruction ..., published in German as, Erziehung und Unterricht aus Menschenerkenntnis, And the 1st of 4 lectures in the lecture series entitled, Balance in Teaching.

Speaking to the teachers at the first Waldorf school in Stuttgart, Steiner asserts that the unfortunate presence of dishonesty and alienation in society today cannot be addressed without a completely renewed and holistic education. He states fact that successful teaching requires a living synthesis of the “spiritual gymnast,” the “ensouled rhetorician,” and the “intellectual professor.” Of these, the formative effect of the rhetorician's cultivation of artistic speech is the most important.


My dear Friends,

During these days which I am able to spend here, I intended to give a kind of supplement to many of the things which I brought before you last year in our introductory educational course. But the days are so few and, after what I have just been told, there are so many things which must be done during these days that I can really hardly say whether I shall be able to get beyond these scanty introductory words of today. I wanted to give only an introduction now and then go into greater detail later, but, as I have said, there are so many things which must be done that it is almost impossible to speak of any kind of a programme.

The subject of which I would like to speak to you in this Introduction is this: I should like to add more to what I gave you last year about the teacher himself, the teacher and the Educator. Of course, all that I shall say with regard to the being of the teacher must be understood in a completely aphoristic way, and it will really be best If it gradually takes its true form in you yourselves, if to a certain extent it is developed further through your own thinking and feeling. When we speak of the College of Teachers, it is necessary to call your attention to the fact that the teachers must really have a true feeling, a true perception of the nature of the esoteric as such. And in calling your attention to this, I will remind you that we take our stand on the Spiritual Science we learn through Anthroposophy and it is this Spiritual Science which will give us the form for the Pedagogy necessary for the present day. In our times, in these days of Democracy, in these days of journalism, the fact is that people scarcely have a real, a true feeling for what is meant by “esoteric,” for people think today what is true is true and what is right is right, and the true and the right when they are formulated in any way must then be expressed before the whole world in the form which is considered correct. But in real life this is not the case; these things are quite different. In real life the essential thing is that there are certain activities which can only be developed if the impulses for these activities are guarded in the soul as a most sacred private possession. The teacher in particular would find it necessary to guard many things as a sacred, private possession and to look upon this possession as something which only plays a part in those meetings and conversations which are carried on within the College of Teachers itself as such. At first a sentence of this kind does not seem particularly clear, and yet it will become clear to you. I should have to say a great deal if I wanted to make it clear, but to begin with it will be clear if I say the following:—

This sentence which I have just cited has also, at the present time, a significance which embraces the civilization of the whole world.


If today we think of the education of the young, we must bear in mind that we are concerned with feelings, the ideas, the will impulses of the next generation; we must be clear that our present work is to prepare this next generation for definite tasks which will be accomplished, at some time in the future of mankind. When a thing of this kind is said, the question at once arises; Why is it then that humanity has reached the widespread misery in which it is today? Humanity has entered into this misery because it has really in essential things made itself dependent, through and through dependent, on the kind of thinking and feeling peculiar to the western man. It is true to say that when today someone in Central Europe speaks about, e.g., Fichte, Herder or even Goethe, if he belongs to external public life, either as a journalist, book-wright or the like, he is much further from the true spiritual impulse living in Fichte, Herder or Goethe when he is thinking and active in Berlin or Vienna, than he is from what is felt and thought today in London, Paris, New York or Chicago. Things have worked out gradually In such a way that speaking generally our whole civilization has been flooded by the impulses proceeding from the philosophy of the western nations and our whole public life is lived in the impulses proceeding from the philosophy of these nations.

It must also be admitted that this is particularly true where the art of education is concerned. For from the last third of the 19th century European nations, speaking generally, have learned from the western nations in all such educational matters, and today it is taken for granted by those men who discuss or dispute among other things about questions of education, that they should make use of the habits of thought which come from the west. If you trace back all the educational ideas which are considered reasonable in Central Europe today, you will find their source in the views of Herbert Spencer or similar men. People do not trace out the numerous paths by which the views of Spencer and others like him have entered the heads of those who have to decide about spiritual questions in Central Europe, but these paths exist—they are to be found. And if you (I will not lay special stress on the details) take the spirit of the educational line such as is to be found, e.g., in Fichte, it is now not only absolutely different from that which is generally looked upon today as sensible pedagogy, but the fact is that modern men are hardly in a position to think and feel along the lines which would enable then to understand what was meant by Fichte and Herder that they could find a way of continuing it. Thus, our experience today in the realm of pedagogy, especially in the art of pedagogy, is that the principles that have arisen are exactly the opposite of what they ought to be. Here I would like to point out to you something which Spencer has written.

Spencer was of the opinion that the way of giving object lessons should be such that they would lead over into the experience of the naturalist, into the research work of the men of science. What then would have to be done in the school? According to that, we should have to teach the children in school in such a way that when they are grown up and have the opportunity, they can continue what they have learned in the school about plants, minerals, animals, etc., so that they can become regular scientists or natural philosophers. It is true that this kind of idea is frequently attacked, but at the same time people really put this principle into practice. And for this reason; Our textbooks are composed with this in view, and no one thinks of altering or doing away with our textbooks. Today the fact is that, e.g., the textbooks on botany are composed for future botanists rather than for human beings in general. In the same way textbooks on zoology are written for future zoologists, not for human beings in general.

Now the remarkable thing is that we ought to strive for the exact opposite of that which Spencer has laid down as a true educational principle. When we are teaching the children about plants and animals in our Volkschule lessons, we could hardly imagine a greater mistake in our method of education than to treat the subject as an introduction to the studies which would be required to enable the child later to become a botanist or zoologist. If, on the contrary, you could have arranged your lessons so that your way of teaching about plants and animals would hinder the child in question from becoming a botanist or zoologist, then you would have acted more wisely than by following Spencer's principle, for no one should become a botanist or zoologist through what he learns in the Volkschule; that he can only become through his special gifts which are revealed by his choice of vocation and which would be sure to appear during his life if there is a true art of education. Through his gifts! That is, if he has the gifts necessary for a botanist, he can become a botanist; and if he has the gifts necessary for a zoologist, he can become a zoologist. That can only be the result of the gifts of the child in question, i.e., of his predetermined Karma. This must come about through the fact that we recognise this child has the makings of a botanist, that child has the makings of a zoologist. It must never be the result of making our Volkschule lessons in any way a preparation for special scientific activity. Just think what has happened of late. It has come about that unfortunately our “scientists” have been our educationalists; people who have definitely trained themselves to think scientifically have been engaged in pedagogy, have taken a most important part in deciding educational questions. That is to say, it has been thought that the teacher as such has something to do with the scientist; a scientific training has actually been taken as a teacher's training, whereas the two should be completely and absolutely different. If the teacher is a scientist, if he makes it his business to think scientifically in a narrow sense (that he can do as a private man, but not as a teacher), then there comes about something which does often happen. The teacher cuts rather a comical figure in his class and among his pupils or among his colleagues; jokes are made at his expense. Goethe's “Baccalaureus” in the upper classes is not such a rarity as is usually supposed.

And as a matter of fact, if you are asked today whether you would be more on the side of the teacher when his pupils make jokes about him or on the side of the scholars, you would under present educational conditions be more on the side of the scholars. For it is in our universities that you can best see whence this has arisen. What are our universities, properly speaking? Are they institutions for teaching young men and women or are they institutions for research? They would like to be both and that is why they have become the caricatures which they are today. It is usually even held up as a special feature of our universities that they are at the same time institutions for teaching and for research. But it is in this way that the bad methods, which come into our education when it is carried out by scientists, work their way first of all into our highest educational centres. Later these bad methods find their way down into the Mittelschule, and then finally also into the Volkschule. And it is this which cannot sufficiently be borne in mind, that the art of education must proceed from life and that it cannot proceed from abstract scientific thought.

Now the remarkable thing is that there is now arising, chiefly out of the western culture, just what can be called a pedagogy with a scientific, even a natural scientific, bent and that when we remember what was to be found in Herder, in Fichte, what was to be found in Jean Paul, in Schiller and similar minds, we know that here is really a pedagogy, which has been forgotten, taken from life, a pedagogy drawn directly from life. And now there lies before us the calling of the Central European nations, that calling which has its place in the history of the world, to cherish and develop this pedagogy, to make it their esoteric task to develop this pedagogy. For many things can be common to humanity and many things must be common to humanity if an improvement in social affairs is to come in the future; but the western nations will not be able to understand what will arise out of the whole concrete Central European spiritual culture with regard to the art of education; on the contrary, it will annoy them, and it really ought not to be told them in its original form. It could only have an undesirable effect upon them. It will only be possible to speak of it to them when they have made up their minds to take their stand on the esoteric foundation of Spiritual Science. With regard to all those things which have been looked upon in Germany during the last forty years with such pride, with regard to all those things which have been considered such a great advance, Germany has lost. All this will pass over to the dominion of the western nations. In this respect there is nothing to be done, and we can only hope to awaken so much understanding for the threefold social organism that the western nations will take part in it. But with regard to what has to be given for the art of education, we have something to give the world from Central Europe which no one else can give, not an oriental and not a western man. But we must know how to keep this among those who are able to understand it; we must understand how to guard it with a certain sense of trust, and we must know that it is this guardianship which will make our work effectual. You must know exactly about what things you have to be silent before certain people if you want to obtain a result. Then we must above all things be clear that there is nothing to hope from anything that might come to us from the kind of thought which, proceeding from the west, is indispensable in many branches of modern civilization; we must know that there is absolutely nothing to be expected from this direction for the educational art we have to develop.

There is a publication about education by Herbert Spencer which is extraordinarily Interesting. He gives there a whole number of maxims, of “Principles,” as he calls them, about the intellectual education of the child. Among these principles there is one which he especially emphasizes. In teaching you should never proceed from the abstract, but always from the concrete; you should always work your subject out from an individual case. Now in his book about education, before anything concrete is approached, there is the worst possible abstract litter, really abstract chaff, and he does not notice that he is himself carrying out the opposite of those principles which he sets forth as indispensable. Thus, we have an illustration of how an eminent, leading philosopher of the present day absolutely contradicts what he himself advocates.

Now you saw last year that our pedagogy has not to be built up on abstract principles of education, for it was said that we should not bring things to the child from the outside, but rather develop the individuality of the child. You know that our educational art should be built upon a real sympathy with the child's being, that it should be built up, in the widest sense, on a knowledge of the growing child, and in our first course of lectures and then later in our conferences we have collected sufficient facts about the being of the growing child. If as teachers we can enter into the child's being, then, out of our knowledge of the child, there will spring up a perception of the way in which we should act. In this respect we must as teachers become artists. Just as it is impossible for an artist to take a book on aesthetics in his hand in order to paint or model according to the principles laid down by the writer, so it should be quite impossible for a teacher to use an “educational guide” in order to teach, but what he needs is a real insight into what the child really is, what he will become as he works his way through childhood. It is above all necessary that we should be clear about the following: we teach, let us say, to begin with in the first class, the 6-7 year old children; now our teaching will always be bad, will have failed to fulfil its purpose if after we have worked with this first class for a year we do not say to ourselves; Who then has really learned the most? It is I, the teacher! If we say to ourselves, “At the beginning of the school year I had excellent educational principles, I have followed the best educational authorities, have done everything to carry out these principles;”—If you really had done this, you really would have taught badly. You would however certainly have taught best if each morning you had gone into your class in fear and trembling without over much confidence in yourself and then had said at the end of the year, you yourself have really learned the most during this time! For whether you can say: you, yourself have learned the most depends on how you have acted; it depends upon what you have really done, depends upon your constantly having had the feeling: you are growing while you are helping the children to grow, you are experimenting in the highest sense of the word, you are not really able to do so very much, but by working with the children there grows in you a certain power. Sometimes you will have the feeling: there is not much to be done with this kind of child, but you will have taken trouble with them. From other children, owing to their special gifts, you will have had certain experiences. In short, you have become quite a different person from what you were before you began, and you have taught what you would not have been able to teach a year earlier. At the end of the school year you say: yes, now for the first time you can do what you ought to have been doing. This is quite a religious feeling! And here there lies hidden a certain secret. If at the beginning of the school year you had really been able to do all you can do at the end, you would have taught badly. You have given good lessons because you had to work them out as you went along! I must put the following paradox before you. You taught well when you did not know at the beginning what you had learned by the end of the year, and it would have been harmful if you had already known at the beginning of the year what you had learned by the end. A remarkable paradox!

It is important for many people that they should know this, but it is most important of all that teachers should know it. For this is a special case of universal comprehensive understanding; a knowledge, no matter what the subject is, which can be comprehended in abstract principles, which can be represented by ideas in the mind, can be of no practical value; it is only what leads to this knowledge, only what is found on the way to this knowledge that is of any practical value. For this knowledge which is ours after we have taught for a year, receives its first value after our death. It is not until after the death of a man that this knowledge becomes such a reality that it can further his development, that it can further the development of the real individual man. In life it is not the ready knowledge that is of value, but the work which leads to the knowledge and particularly in the art of education this work has its own particular value. It is the same in education as in the arts, I do not think that an artist has the right attitude of mind if, when he has finished a work, he does not say to himself; it is only now that you could really do it. I do not think that an artist has the right attitude of mind If he is satisfied with any work he has done. He may have a certain natural egoistic feeling for what he has done, but he cannot really be satisfied with it. A work of art when it is finished really loses for the artist a large part of its interest, and this loss of interest is owing to the peculiar nature of the knowledge which is acquired while the work is being done. And on the other hand, the living element in a work of art, the life that springs from it, owes its being to the fact that it has not yet been transmuted into knowledge.

The same thing is indeed true with regard to the whole human organism. Our head is as “finished” as anything can be finished, for it is formed out of the forces of our last incarnation; it is over mature. Human heads are all over mature, even the immature ones. But the rest of the organism is only at the stage of furnishing the seed for the head in our next incarnation; it is full of life and energy, but it is incomplete. It will not be until our death that the rest of our organization will really show its true form, namely the form of the forces which are at work in it. The constitution of the rest of our organism shows that there is flowing life in it; ossification is reduced to the minimum in this part of our organism while in our head it reaches the maximum.

This peculiar kind of real heartfelt modesty, this feeling that we ourselves are still only becoming, is something which will give the teachers strength, for more arises out of this feeling than out of any abstract principles. If when we are in our class we are conscious that we are doing everything imperfectly, then we shall teach well. If on the other hand we are constantly smacking our lips with satisfaction over the perfection of our teaching, then it is quite certain that we shall teach badly.

But now imagine the following: to begin with you have charge of the teaching of the first class and so on, so that you have gone through everything that has to be gone through, of excitements, disappointments, successes too, if you will. Imagine that you have gone through all the classes of the Volkschule; at the end of each year you have spoken to yourself somewhat after the fashion that I have just described, and now you go down again from the eighth to the first class. Yes, now it might be supposed that you must say to yourself; now I am beginning with what I have learned, now I shall be able to do it well, I shall be an excellent teacher! But it will not be like that. The course of your new class will bring something quite different before your mind. At the end of the second third of each school year, you will say just the same out of a really right feeling. I have now learned what it was possible to learn about seven, eight and nine-year old children by working with them; at the end of each school year I know what I ought to have done. But when you have reached the fourth or fifth, school year, you will again not know how you really ought to have taught. For now, you will correct what you thought to be right after you have taught for a year. And so, after you have finished the eighth school year and have corrected everything, if you really have the good fortune to begin again at the first school year, you will be in the same position, only you will teach in a different spirit. But if you go through your teaching with true, noble, not with mock scepticism, you will find that your diffidence has brought you an imponderable power which will make you peculiarly fitted to accomplish more with the children that are entrusted to you. That is doubtless true. The effect however in life will really then only be a different one, not one that is so much better, but a different effect. I might say that the quality which you bring about in the children will not be much better than the first time; the effect will only be a different one. You will attain something different in quality but not much more in quantity. You will attain something that is different in quality and that is sufficient, for everything which we acquire in the way described with the necessary, noble diffidence and heartfelt humility has the effect that we are able to make individualities out of the children; on the whole they become individualities. We cannot have the same class twice over and send out into the world the same copies of a cut and dried educational pattern.

We can however give the world figures which are individually different. We bring about many-sidedness in life. This does not depend on the working out of abstract principles, but rather this many-sidedness in life depends on a deeper understanding of life such as has been put before you.

Thus, you can see that what matters more than anything else in a teacher is the way in which he regards his holy calling. That is not without significance, for the most Important things In teaching and in education are those which are imponderable. A teacher who enters his classroom with this feeling in his heart achieves something different from another. Just as, even in everyday life, it is not always the largest thing physically that determines our standard but something quite small, so also it is not always what we do with the largest number of words which carries most weight, but sometimes it is that perception, that feeling which we have built up in our hearts before we enter the classroom. There is one thing especially which is of great importance. That is that we must quickly strip off our narrower, personal self like a snake skin when we go into the class. A teacher may in certain circumstances, because he, as is sometimes said with such self-satisfaction, is also only human, go through all sorts of experiences between the end of a class one day and beginning again on the next. It may be that he has been warned by his creditors, or he may have had a quarrel with his wife, as does happen in life.

These are things which bring disharmonies. Disharmonies of this kind give a man's frame of mind a certain tendency; so also do happy joyous feelings. The father of one of your pupils, if he particularly likes you, may have sent you a hare after he has been out hunting, or a bunch of flowers perhaps, if you are a lady teacher. What I mean is that it is quite a natural thing in life to have moods of this kind. As teachers we must train ourselves to lay aside these moods and to give ourselves up entirely to the content of the subject we are going to teach, so that we are really able in presenting one subject to speak tragically, taking our mood from our subject and then to pass over into a humorous mood as we proceed with our lesson, in this way entering completely into our subject. The important thing however is that we should now be able to perceive the whole reaction of the class to tragedy or sentimentality or humour. Then, when we are in a position to do this, we shall be aware that tragedy, sentimentality and humour are of extraordinary significance for the souls of children. And if we allow our lessons to be carried along by an alternation between humour, sentimentality and tragedy, if we pass from the one mood into the other and back again, if we are really able, after presenting something for which we needed a certain heaviness, to pass over into a certain lightness, not a forced lightness, but one that arises because we are living in our lesson, then we are bringing about in the soul something akin to the in and outbreathing in the bodily organism. In teaching, our object is not to teach merely intellectually or intellectualistically, but to be able to really take these various moods into consideration. For what is tragedy, what is sentimentality, what is a “melancholic” mood? It is just the same as an inbreathing in the organism, the same as filling the organism with air. Tragedy signifies that we are trying harder and harder to draw our physical body together so that in our drawing together of the physical body we are aware how the astral body comes ever more and more out of the physical body owing to the drawing together of the physical body. A humorous mood signifies that we paralyze the physical body, but with the astral body we do just the opposite of what we did before; we stretch it out as far as possible, stretch it out over its surroundings so that we are aware, if we, e.g., do not merely see redness but grow into it, how we stretch out our astral body beyond this redness, pass over into it. Laughing simply means that we drive the astral body out of our face; laughing is simply nothing else but an outbreathing. Only, if we want to apply all this, we must have a certain feeling for the force there is in these things. It is not always advisable to go straight over into something humorous when we have just had something serious or melancholy, but if we can always have in our lessons the means of preventing the childish soul from being imprisoned by the serious, the tragic, and of freeing it so that it can really experience this breathing in and out between the two frames of mind.

I have now told you something of the variety of moods which should be taken into consideration by the teacher, for this is just as necessary as any other part of special pedagogy.