Donate books to help fund our work. Learn more→

The Rudolf Steiner Archive

a project of Steiner Online Library, a public charity

Waldorf Education and Anthroposophy II
GA 304a

IX. Anthroposophy and Education

14 November 1923, The Hague

In diverse quarters today, people speak of the need for an answer to certain educational questions thus far unanswered. The many endeavors in modern education clearly show this. What I am hoping to convey to you today, at the request of this country’s Anthroposophical Society, is not mere theoretical knowledge. The practical application of spiritual-scientific knowledge that comes from the anthroposophical viewpoint of the human being has already demonstrated its value—at least to a certain extent.

In 1919 Emil Molt took the first steps to open a free school, and he asked me to take care of the practical matters and direction of the school. Thus, the spiritual-scientific knowledge of the human being and the world, which it is my task to represent, became naturally the basis of the education practiced in this school. The school has existed since 1919 and currently offers twelve grades. Students who entered the twelfth grade this summer will take their final exams next year so they can enter a university or other places of higher education. The school offers everything pertaining to the education of children from the elementary school age (that is, after the age of six) until the boys and girls begin higher education.

This school’s practices, which are the outcome of a spiritualscientific worldview, was never intended to revolutionize any previous achievements in the field of practical education. Our goal is not to think up new radical methods, such as those tried in special rural boarding schools, where the creation of very particular conditions was believed necessary before teaching could even begin. Our aim is to continue along the educational paths already marked by enlightened educators at the beginning of the twentieth century. This we attempt not only on the basis of human knowledge during the various stages of earthly development, but out of insight into the whole of human nature in the widest and most comprehensive way possible. This insight includes not only the various physical happenings of earthly life between birth and death, but also what lives and manifests during life as the eternally divine in the human being. It is important to us that we add to what has already been achieved by educational reformers, and also that we offer what can be contributed from a wider, spiritual viewpoint. Furthermore, there is no intention of putting utopian educational ideas into the world—something that, as a rule, is far easier to do than creating something based fully on practical reality. Our aim is to achieve the best possible results under any given circumstances.

Achieving this goal means that the actual conditions one faces, whether urban or rural, must serve as a foundation for the human being that results from a genuine and true art of education, so that students can eventually find a way into current and future social and professional life situations, which will certainly become increasingly complex. This is why Waldorf education offers an education that is strictly practical and methodical, meaning that, essentially, its program can be accomplished in any type of school, provided that the fundamental conditions can be created. So far, events have shown that we have made at least some progress in this direction.

We opened our school under auspicious circumstances. Initially, the manufacturer Emil Molt began it for the children of the workers in his factory. There was, of course, no difficulty in enrolling them. Also, we received children whose parents were interested in the anthroposophical point of view. Still, we began with only one hundred and thirty students. Today, four years later, after the school has grown from eight to twelve grades, we have almost eight hundred students and a staff of over forty teachers. Here in Holland, there have recently been efforts to open a similar small school—but more on that later. There is some hope that the methods used in Stuttgart will also prove worthwhile in Holland. Steps are also being taken in Switzerland to begin such a school, and in England a committee has been formed to start a Waldorf school.

After these introductory remarks I would like to speak about the meaning of Waldorf pedagogy. It is based on a penetrating knowledge of the human being, and on the teachers’ ability, with the help of special preparation and training, to perceive the development and unfolding of their students’ individualities, week by week, month by month, and year by year. From this point of view, the question of Waldorf education has to be seen, primarily, as a question of teacher training. I will try to outline in sketchy and unavoidably abstract form what can be done on the basis of such knowledge of the human being. This abstract form, however, can only be a description. It is important that what is said becomes flesh and blood, so to speak, in the teachers and that this deepened knowledge of the human being arises from practice and not from theory, and thus becomes applicable in a school.

When we observe the growing child, we can easily overlook the significance of changes connected with three fundamental life stages. We may notice various changes during a child’s development, but usually we fail to comprehend their deeper significance. We can distinguish three fundamental stages of human development until about the twentieth year, when formal education ends, or makes way for more specialized education. The first period, which is of a homogeneous nature, begins at birth and ends with the change of teeth around the seventh year. The second life stage begins at the time of the second dentition and ends at puberty. During the third stage, we are concerned with sexually mature young people who nowadays often tend to feel more mature than we can actually treat them if we want to educate them properly. This stage lasts until around the twenty-first year.

Let’s look more closely at the child’s first period of life. To the unbiased observer, a child at this stage is entirely an imitating being, right into the most intimate fibers of the spirit, soul, and physical being; and above all, the child at this stage is a being of will. One will notice that the child becomes, during development, increasingly open to impressions that come from the environment, and pays more and more attention to external things and happenings. But it is easy to deceive oneself in believing that the child’s increasing attentiveness to the external world is due to an awakening of a conceptual life, something that, at such an early age, is not true at all. At no other time in all of life will the human being, due to inborn instinct and drive, want to be freer and more independent of the conceptual realm than during these early years before the change of teeth. During these years the child really wants to repel everything connected with conceptual life in order to freely follow the inclinations of inner nature. The child’s will, on the other hand, tends to merge with the surroundings, to the point where the will manifests physically. Nothing seems more obvious than a child’s tendency to imitate exactly through limb movements the habitual gestures or postures of surrounding adults. This is because the child feels an overwhelming urge to continue in the will sphere what is happening in the environment, right down to fidgeting. In this sense, the child is entirely a being of will. This is true also of the child’s sense perception. We can easily see that the child at that age is a being of will, even in sense perceptions—something that we must learn to see in order to become competent educators. Allow me to give some details:

Among the various sense perceptions are our perceptions of color. Very few people notice that there are really three different elements living in color perception. As a rule one speaks of “yellow” or “blue” as a color perception, but the fact that there are three elements to such a perception usually escapes notice. First, human will is engaged in our relationship to color. Let’s stick with the example of yellow and blue. If we are sufficiently free from psychological bias, we soon notice that the color yellow works on us not only as a perception in the narrower sense of the word, but also affects our will. It stimulates the will to become active in an outward direction. This is where some very interesting psychological observations could be made. One could detect, for instance, how a yellow background, such as in a hall, stimulates an inclination to become outwardly active, especially if the yellow shimmers with a slightly reddish tint. If, however, we are surrounded by a blue background, we find that the stimulus on the will is directed inward, that it tends to create a pleasing and comforting mood, or feelings of humility, thus exerting a tendency toward inner activity. In this case too, interesting observations can be made, for example, that the impression created by blue is related to specific glandular secretions, so that in this case the will is an impulse stimulated by blue and directed inward.

A second element in our investigation of the effects of color perception may be the observation of the feelings stimulated by the color. A yellow or reddish-yellow color gives an impression of warmth; we have a sensation of warmth. A blue or blue-violet color creates an impression of coolness. To the same degree that the blue becomes more red, it also feels warmer. These examples, then, show the impressions of yellow and blue on the life of feeling. Only the third response represents what we could consider the idea of yellow or blue. But in this last element of our mental imagery, the elements of will and feeling also play a part.

If we now consider the education of children from the perspective of an unbiased knowledge of the human being, we find that the will impulses of children are developed first through color experiences. Young children adapt their physical movements according to yellow’s outward-directed stimulation or with blue’s inward-directed effect. This fundamental trend continues until a child loses the first teeth. Naturally, feelings and perceptions always play a part as well in response to color, but during this first life stage the effect of color on the will always predominates.

During the second life stage—from the second dentition to puberty—the experience of esthetic feelings created by color is superimposed over the existing will impulse. Thus, we can see two things: With the change of teeth, something like a calming effect in relation to color stimulation, or in other words, an inner calming from the viewpoint of the child’s innate desire to “touch” color. During the time between the change of teeth and puberty, a special appreciation for warm and cold qualities in color comes into being. Finally, a more detached and prosaic relationship to the concepts yellow or blue begins only with the beginning of puberty.

What thus manifests in color perception is present also in the human being as a whole. One could say that, until the second dentition, the child has a kind of natural religious relationship of complete devotion to the surroundings. The child allows what is living in the environment to live within. Hence, we succeed best at educating (if we can call raising children during these early years “education”) when we base all our guidance on the child’s inborn tendency to imitate—that is, on the child’s own inward experience of empathy with the surroundings. These influences include the most imponderable impulses of human life. For example, if a child’s father displays a violent temper and cannot control his outbursts, the child will be markedly affected by such a situation. The fits of temper themselves are of little significance, because the child cannot understand these; but the actions, and even the gestures, of the angry person are significant. During these early years the child’s entire body acts as one universal sense organ. In the child’s own movements and expressions of will, the body lives out by imitating what is expressed in the movements and actions of such a father. Everything within the still impressionable and pliable body of such a child unfolds through the effects of such experiences. Blood circulation and the nerve organization, based on the conditions of the child’s soul and spirit, are under this influence; they adjust to outside influences and impacts, forming inner habits. What thus becomes a child’s inner disposition through the principle of imitation, remains as inner constitution for the rest of the person’s life. Later in life, the blood circulation will be affected by such outwardly perceived impressions, transformed into forces of will during this most delicate stage of childhood. This must be considered in both a physical sense and its soul-aspect.

In this context, I always feel tempted to mention the example of a little boy who, at the age of four or five, was supposed to have committed what at a later stage could be called “stealing.” He had taken money from one of his mother’s drawers. He had not even used it for himself, but had bought sweets with it that he shared with his playmates. His father asked me what he should do with his boy, who had “stolen” money! I replied: “Of course one has to note such an act. But the boy has not stolen, because at his age the concept of stealing does not yet exist for him.” In fact, the boy had repeatedly seen his mother taking money out of the drawer, and he simply imitated her. His behavior represents a perfectly normal attempt to imitate. The concept of thieving does not yet play any part in a child of this age.

One has to be conscious not to do anything in front of the child that should not be imitated; in all one does, this principle of imitation has to be considered. Whatever one wants the child to do, the example must be set, which the child will naturally copy. Consequently, one should not assign young children specially contrived occupations, as is frequently done in kindergartens; if this must be done, the teachers should be engaged in the same activities, so that the child’s interest is stimulated to copy the adult.

Imitation is the principle of a healthy education up to the change of teeth. Everything has to stimulate the child’s will, because the will is still entirely woven into the child’s physical body and has the quality of an almost religious surrender to the environment. This manifests everywhere, in all situations.

With the change of teeth, this attitude of surrender to the environment transforms into a childlike esthetic, artistic surrender. I should like to describe this by saying that the child’s natural religious impulse toward other human beings, and toward what we understand as nature, transforms into an artistic element, which has to be met with imagination and feeling. Consequently, for the second life period, the only appropriate approach to the child is artistic. The teacher and educator of children in the primary grades must be especially careful to permeate everything done during this period with an artistic quality. In this respect, new educational approaches are needed that pay particular attention to carrying these new methods into practical daily life.

I don’t expect the following to create much antagonism, since so many others have expressed similar opinions. I have heard it said more often than I care to mention that the teaching profession tends to make its members pedantic. And yet, for the years between seven and fourteen, nothing is more poisonous for the child than pedantry. On the other hand, nothing is more beneficial than a teacher’s artistic sense, carried by natural inner enthusiasm to encounter the child. Each activity proposed to children, each word spoken in their presence, must be rooted, not in pedantry, and not in some theoretical construct, but in artistic enthusiasm, so that the children respond with inner joy and satisfaction at being shaped by a divine natural process arising from the center of human life.

If teachers understand how to work with their students out of such a mood, they practice the only living way of teaching. And something must flow into their teaching that I can only briefly sketch here. I am speaking of a quality that addresses partly the teachers’ understanding and partly their willingness to take the time in their work, but mainly their general attitude. Knowledge of the human being has to become second nature to teachers, a part of their very being, just as the ability to handle paints and brushes has to be part of a painter’s general makeup, or the use of sculpting tools natural to a sculptor. In the teacher’s case, however, this ability has to be taken much more earnestly, almost religiously, because in education we are confronted with the greatest work of art we will ever encounter in life—which it would be almost sacrilegious to refer to as merely a work of art. As teachers, we are called on to help in this divine creation. It is this inner mood of reverence in the teacher that is important. Through such a mood, one finds ways to create a more and more enlivening relationship with the children.

Remember, at school young students must grow into something that is initially alien to their nature. As an example, let’s take writing, which is based on letters that are no longer experienced esthetically, but are strung together to make words and sentences. Our contemporary writing developed from something very different, from picture writing. But the ancient picture writing still had a living connection with what it expressed, just as the written content retained a living relationship with its meaning. Today we need learned studies to trace back the little “goblin,” which we designate as the letter a, to the moment when what was to be expressed through the insertion of this letter into one or the other word was inwardly experienced. And yet this a is nothing but an expression of a feeling of sudden surprise and wonder. Each letter has its origin in the realm of feeling, but those feelings are now lost. Today, letters are abstractions.

If one has unbiased insight into the child’s mind, one knows how terribly alien the abstractions are that the child is supposed to learn at a delicate age, written meaning that once had living links with life, but now totally bereft of its earlier associations as used in the adult world today.

As a result, we in the Waldorf school have endeavored to coax writing out of the activity of painting and drawing. We teach writing before we teach reading. To begin with, we do not let the children approach letters directly at all. For example, we allow the child to experience the activity of painting—for example, the painting of a fish—however primitive the efforts may be. So the child has painted a fish. Then we make the child aware of the sound that the thing painted on paper makes when pronounced as a word; we make the child aware that what was painted is pronounced “fish.” It is now an easy and obvious step to transform the shape of the fish into the sound of the first letter of the word F-ish. With the letter F, this actually represents its historical origin. However, this is not the point; the important thing is that, from the painted form of a picture, we lead to the appropriate letter.

The activity of painting is naturally connected with the human being. In this way we enable children to assimilate letters through their own experience of outer realities. This necessitates an artistic sense. It also forces one to overcome a certain easygoing attitude, because if you could see Waldorf children using their brushes and paints, you would soon realize that, from the teacher’s perspective, a measure of personal discomfort is inevitable in the use of this method! Again and again the teacher has to clean up after the children, and this demands a certain devotion. Yet, such minor problems are overcome more quickly than one might assume. It is noteworthy to see how much even young children gain artistic sensibility during such activities. They soon realize the difference between “smearing” paint onto paper somewhat haphazardly, and achieving the luminous quality of watercolor needed to create the desired effects. This difference, which may appear downright “occult” to many adults, soon becomes very real to the child, and such a fertile mind and soul experience is an added bonus in this introduction to writing.

On the other hand, teaching children to write this way is bound to take more time. Learning to write a little later, however, is not a disadvantage. We all suffer because, as children, we were taught writing abstractly and too early. There would be no greater blessing for humanity than for its members to make the transition to the abstract letters of the alphabet as late as the age of nine or ten, having previously derived them from a living painterly approach.

When learning to write, the whole human being is occupied. One has to make an effort to move the arms in the right way, but at the same time one feels this activity of the arms and hands connected with one’s whole being. It therefore offers a beautiful transition, from the stage when the child lives more in the will element, to the second stage when the element of feeling predominates. While learning to read, the child engages primarily the organs used to perceive the form of the letters, but the child’s whole being is not fully involved. For this reason, we endeavor to evolve reading from writing. A similar approach is applied for everything the child has to learn.

The important point is for the teacher to read what needs to be done in teaching within the child’s own nature. This sentence is symptomatic of all Waldorf pedagogy. As long as the teacher teaches reading in harmony with the child’s nature, there is no point in stressing the advantages of one or another method. What matters is that teachers be capable of perceiving what needs to be drawn out of the child. Whatever we need in later life always evolves from what was planted in our childhood.

To sense what wants to flow out of the inner being of the child, to develop empathy with the child between the ages of seven and fourteen, are the things that give children the right footing later in life. In this context, it is especially important to develop mobile concepts in students of that age. Flexible concepts based on the life of feeling cannot be developed properly if teachers limit their subject to include only what a child already understands. It certainly appears to make sense to plead that one should avoid teaching a subject that a child cannot yet comprehend. It all sounds plausible.

On the other hand, one could be driven to despair by textbooks delineating specific methods, and by books intended to show teachers what subject to teach in their object lessons and how to do it so that students are not instructed in anything beyond their present comprehension. The substance of such books is often full of trivialities and banalities; they fail to allow that, at this age, children can glimpse in their own souls what is not sense perceptible at all outwardly, such as moral and other impulses in life. Those who advocate these observational methods do not recognize that one educates not just on the basis of what can be observed at the child’s present stage, but on the basis of what will develop out of childhood for the whole of future life.

It is a fact that, whenever a child of seven or eight feels natural reverence and respect for a teacher who is seen as the gateway into the world (instinctively of course, as is appropriate to this age), such a child can rise inwardly and find support in the experience of a justified authority—not just in what the teacher says, but in the way the teacher acts, by example. This stage is very different from the previous one, when the principle of imitation is the guiding factor until the change of teeth. The early imitative attitude in the child transforms later into inner life forces. At this second stage of life, nothing is more important than the child’s acceptance of truths out of trust for the teacher, because the child who has a proper sense of authority will accept the teacher’s words could only be the truth. Truth has to dawn upon the child in a roundabout way—through the adult first. Likewise, appreciation for what is beautiful and good also has to evolve from the teachers’ attitudes.

At this stage of life, the world must meet the child in the form of obvious authority. Certainly you will not misunderstand that, having thirty years ago written Intuitive Thinking as a Spiritual Path: A Philosophy of Freedom, I am speaking against human freedom. But even the most liberated of individuals should have experienced in childhood the infinitely beneficial effects of being able to look up to the authority of an educator as a matter of course—to have experienced through this respect for authority the gateway to truth, beauty, and goodness in the world. All this can be observed, week by week and month by month.

The child becomes the book where one reads what is needed. In this way one develops a profound sense for what to do with the child, for example, at any significant moment in the child’s life. One such moment is between the ninth and tenth years. Anyone who has become a natural authority for the child will inevitably find, through observing the child, that, between nine and ten, a significant change occurs that can be expressed in many ways. At this point in development, children need something fairly specific, but are not at all conscious of what they need.

Here is the situation: Until this stage children have experienced the authority of their educators entirely unconsciously and instinctively. Now more is required; the students now want to feel reassured that their feeling toward the authority of the teachers is fully justified, given their more mature and critical gift of observation. If at this point a teacher succeeds in keeping the aura of natural authority alive, then later in life, perhaps in the child’s forty-fifth or fiftieth year, there will be times when memories reemerge. Therefore, what was accepted at one time on trust during childhood days, maybe at the age of eight or nine, is considered again, but now with the maturity of one’s life experience. Such a memory may have been slumbering deeply for decades in the unconscious, and now resurfaces to be assessed from the perspective of mature life experience. Such an occurrence is immensely fertile and stimulates a wealth of inner life forces.

What is the secret of remaining young in mind and soul? It is certainly not a nostalgic attitude of reminiscences about “the good old days of youth, when everything used to be so beautiful and not at all how life is now.” It is the inner transformation of the experiences of our young days that keeps us young and makes us valuable to other human beings. This inner transformation represents the fruit of what was planted at one time into our souls when we were children. Impulses that are closely linked to human life and to our bodies are transformed in remarkable ways.

I would like to give just one example of such a transformation. There are people who, having reached a very old age, radiate a wholesome atmosphere on others in their company. They do not even need to speak words of wisdom; simply through their presence, they radiate a feeling of inner well-being on those around them so that their company is always welcome. They spread a kind of blessing. Where does this gift originate?

When we study, we consider only the years of childhood and schooling. In this way, education remains merely an external study. To study it in depth demands an extension of one’s observations and interest over the entire span of life—from birth to death. And if we observe human life from the viewpoint of the kind of education I advocate, we find that this gift of blessing is rooted in an earlier natural veneration for one’s educators, experienced during childhood. I would like to go even further and say that no one can spread arms and hands in inner admiration and reverence, in blessing, unless one has learned to fold hands in admiring or reverent prayer as a child. Over the course of human life, the inner experience of veneration is transformed into an ability to bless at a time of life when such blessing can affect others beneficially.

Once again, only when we include an entire lifetime in our observations can we practice a truly living education. In this case, one would not want to teach children rigid or fixed concepts. If we were to bind a child of five for a time in a tight-fitting garment that would not allow further growth—I am speaking hypothetically of course, for this does not happen—we would commit a dreadful and heinous crime in the child’s physical life. But this is just what we do to the child’s soul life when we teach definitions intended to remain unchanged, definitions that the child’s memory is expected to carry, fixed and unaltered, throughout life. It is most important that we give the child only flexible ideas and concepts, capable of further growth—physical, soul, and spiritual growth. We must avoid teaching fixed concepts and instead bring concepts that change and grow with the child. We should never nurture an ambition to teach children something to be remembered for all of life, but should convey only mobile ideas. Those who are serious about learning the art of education will understand this.

You will not misunderstand when I say it is obvious that not every teacher can be a genius. But every teacher can find the situation where there are some boys and girls to be taught who, later in life, will show much greater intelligence than that of their current teachers. Real teachers should always be aware that some of the students sitting before them may one day far outshine them in intelligence and in other ways. True artists of education never assume that they are intellectually equal to the children sitting before them.

The basis of all education is the ability to use and bring to fulfillment whatever can be gained from the arts. If we derive writing and reading from painting, we are already applying an artistic approach. But we should be aware also of the immense benefits that can be derived from the musical element, especially for training the child’s will. We can come to appreciate the role of the musical element only by basing education on real and true knowledge of the human being.

Music, however, leads us toward something else, toward eurythmy. Eurythmy is an art that we could say was developed from spiritual-scientific research according to the demands of our time. Out of a whole series of facts essential to knowledge of the human being, contemporary science knows only one little detail—that for right-handed people (that is, for the majority of people) the speech center is in the third left convolution of the brain, whereas for those who are left-handed it is on the right side of the brain. This is a mere detail. Spiritual science shows us further, which is fundamental to education, that all speech derives from the limb movements, broadly speaking, performed during early childhood.

Of course, the child’s general constitution is important here, and this is much more significant than what results from more or less fortuitous external circumstances. For example, if a child were to injure a foot during the earlier years, such an injury does not need to have a noticeable influence in connection with what I now have in mind. If we inquire into the whole question of speech, however, we find that, when we appropriate certain impulses rooted in the limb system of speech, we begin with walking—that is, with every gesture of the legs and feet. Within the movements of the extremities—for instance in the feet—something goes through a mysterious inner, organic transformation into an impulse within the speech organs situated at the very front. This connection lives, primarily, in forming the consonants. Likewise, the way a child uses the hands is the origin of habitual speech forms. Speech is merely gestures that are transformed. When we know how speech is formed from consonants and vowels, we see the transformed limb movements in them. What we send into the world when we speak is a kind of “gesturing in the air.”

An artistic pedagogical method makes it possible for us to bring what can flow from real knowledge of the human being into education. Through such a method, those who will educate in the sense of this pedagogical art are made into artists of education. There is nothing revolutionary at the basis of this education—just something that will stimulate new impulses, something that can be incorporated into every educational system—because it has sprung from the most intimate human potential for development.

Naturally, this necessitates various rearrangements of lessons and teaching in general, some of which are still very unusual. I will mention only one example: If one endeavors to practice the art of education according to the Waldorf methods, the natural goal is to work with the life of the child in concentrated form. This makes it impossible to teach arithmetic from eight to nine o’clock, for example, as is customary in many schools today, then history from nine to ten, and yet another subject from ten to eleven, and in this way, teaching all the subjects in haphazard sequence. In the Waldorf school, we have arranged the schedule so that for three to four weeks the same main lesson subject is taught every day from eight to ten in the morning; therefore the students can fully concentrate on and live in one main lesson subject. If what has thus been received is forgotten later, this does not offer a valid objection to our method, because we succeed by this method in nurturing the child’s soul life in a very special way.

This was all meant merely as an example to show how a spiritual- scientific knowledge of the human being can lead to the development of an art of education that makes it possible again to reach the human being, not by an extraneous means, like those of experimental pedagogy or experimental psychology, but by means that allow the flow of life from our own inmost being into the child’s inmost being.

When entering earthly life, human beings not only receive what is passed on by heredity through their fathers and mothers, but they also descend as spirit beings from the spiritual world into this earthly world. This fact can be applied practically in education when we have living insight into the human being. Basically, I cannot think of impressions more wonderful than those received while observing a young baby develop as we participate inwardly in such a gradual unfolding. After the infant has descended from the spiritual world into the earthly world, we can observe what was blurred and indistinct at first, gradually taking on form and shape. If we follow this process, we feel direct contact with the spiritual world, which is incarnating and unfolding before our very eyes, right here in the sensory world. Such an experience provides a sense of responsibility toward one’s tasks as a teacher, and with the necessary care, the art of education attains the quality of a religious service. Then, amid all our practical tasks, we feel that the gods themselves have sent the human being into this earthly existence, and they have entrusted the child to us for education. With the incarnating child, the gods have given us enigmas that inspire the most beautiful divine service.

What thus flows into the art of education and must become its basis comes primarily from the teachers themselves. Whenever people air their views about educational matters, they often say that one shouldn’t just train the child’s intellect, but should also foster the religious element, and so on. There is much talk of that kind about what should be cultivated in children. Waldorf education speaks more about the qualities needed in the teachers; to us the question of education is principally a question of finding the right teachers.

When the child reaches puberty, the adolescent should feel: “Now, after my feeling and willing have been worked on at school, I am ready to train my thinking; now I am becoming mature enough to be dismissed into life.” What meets us at this stage, therefore, is like a clear call coming from the students themselves when we learn to understand them. Anthroposophic knowledge of the human being is not meant to remain a theory for the mystically inclined or for idle minds. It wants to lead directly into life. Our knowledge of the human being is intended to be a practice, the aspect of real life closest to the human soul; it is connected most directly with our duty to the becoming human being. If we learn to educate in this way, in harmony with human nature, the following reassuring thought-picture will rise before us: We are carrying into the future something required by the future! Our cultural life has brought much suffering and complication to people everywhere; it is a reminder of the importance of our work in confronting the challenge of human evolution.

It is often said (ad nauseam, in fact) that the social question is really a question of cultural and spiritual life. Whenever we say that, it should make us aware that the roots of the difficulties in contemporary life are the inner obstacles, and that these must be overcome. Oh, how people today pass each other by without understanding! There is no love, no intimate interest in the potential of other human beings! Human love, not theories, can solve social problems. Above all, one thing is necessary to make possible the development of such an intimate and caring attitude, to effect again direct contact between one soul and another so that social ideas do not become merely theoretical demands: we must learn to harmonize social life in the right way by paying attention to the institution where teachers and children relate. The best seed to a solution of the social question is planted through the way social relationship develops between children and teachers at school. To educators, much in this art of education will feel like taking care of the seed, and through a realistic imagination of the future—it can never be utopian—what they have placed into the human beings entrusted to their care will one day blossom.

Just as we are meant to have before our eyes the entire course of human life when we educate children, with this same attitude we should view also the entire life of society, in its broadest aspects. To work as an educator means to work not for the present, but for the future! The child carries the future, and teachers will be carried, in the same way, by the most beautiful pedagogical attitude if they can remind themselves every moment of their lives: Those we have to educate were sent to us by higher beings. Our task is to lead our students into earthly life in a right and dignified way. Working in a living way with the children, helping them to find their way from the divine world order into the earthly world order—this must penetrate our art of education through and through, as an impulse of feeling and will, in order to meet the most important demands for human life today.

This is the goal of Waldorf pedagogy. What we have achieved in these few years may justify the conviction that a living knowledge of the human being arising from spiritual science can prove fertile for human existence in general and, through it, for the field of education, which is the most important branch of practical life.