The Child's Changing Consciousness and Waldorf Education
19 April 1923, Dornach
Between the ages of seven and approximately fourteen, the teacher's main concern must be directed toward the students' evolving life of feeling. It is really very important that educators acquire the ability to create the kind of mental imagery that can guide pupils through the tender transitional stages characteristic of this period.
When children enter school, remnants of the previous “bodily-religious mood,” as I call it, still exist. There is still a longing in children to absorb through the senses everything happening in their surroundings; this perceiving, which is transformed into imitation, then connects with listening for what comes from the natural authority of the teacher. Truth, at this stage, is not based on the child's judgment, but comes in the guise of what the naturally revered authority of the teacher says. Similarly, what is considered false simply agrees with what this freely accepted authority considers false. This also applies to what is seen as beautiful or ugly, good or evil. Children can only develop the faculty of independent judgment in adulthood if they have gone through the experience of looking up to the voice of authority with uncritical veneration. Of course I am not referring to any kind of enforced authority here; the authority I am speaking of must never be imposed externally. And if, in some cases, an authoritarian approach is necessary for the sake of general society, the child should not be aware of it. The child must always feel secure in looking up with total confidence to the teacher's authority or that of another adult in charge. Everything has to be supported by this tender relationship to authority from the day the child enters the first grade until the ninth year, and especially during the seventh to ninth years. This relationship should be preserved even longer, but between the ninth and tenth years it will necessarily change somewhat.
Within this same context we must now look at another point. During the initial period of life — that is, from birth until the change of teeth — the child lives like one great multifaceted sense organ, but as a sense organ where will forces were working in every moment of life. For me to use the expression “a sense organ where will forces are working,” may sound strange, but this is only because of the complete inadequacy of what we are told by contemporary physiology and the popular ideas derived from it. Today one does not associate will forces with the function of the human eye, for example. Nevertheless, even in the eye, the perceived image is due to will activity. The same is true of the functioning of every other sense organ: will-substance is instrumental in creating the inner sense impressions. The task of a sense organ, first of all, is to expose itself, or the human being, passively to the external world's influences. But within every sense organ an inner activity also occurs that has a will nature.
This will element works very intensively throughout the child's whole body until the change of teeth. It also remains active after this event, with the result that, between entering school and the ninth year, this predominant will element in the child will tolerate only an approach to external nature and to the human being that is entirely human and pictorial. This is why we introduce not aesthetics but a thoroughly artistic element, especially in the younger classes. We do this by allowing children to use liquid colors from the very beginning, even if this practice is likely to cause rather uncomfortable consequences in the classroom. We let children handle colors because, by putting them on paper next to one another — not according to preconceived notions, but simply from an instinctive sense of color; and through the ensuing inner satisfaction, they work in harmony with their own formative forces. When given this opportunity, children reveal a wonderful instinct for painting artistic color combinations, and these soon show the teacher how to direct children's efforts toward drawing with colored pencils from which writing can eventually evolve.
But one thing children at this age cannot do is follow explanations; they have no understanding for this at all. If a teacher tries to explain the subjects during the first school years, the children will react by becoming blunted and dull. This approach simply does not work. On the other hand, everything will go smoothly if, rather than explaining the subject matter, one forms the content into a story, if words are painted with mental images, and if rhythm is brought into one's whole way of teaching. If the teachers' relationship to music is not restricted to music in a narrow sense, but if they can introduce a musical element into their teaching — if their lessons are permeated by beat, rhythm, and other less obvious musical qualities — then children will respond spontaneously and with acute understanding. On the other hand, if the teachers who introduce the world by appealing to feeling in their students were to speak now of the human being as a separate entity, the children would feel inwardly resentful. They would reject it; indeed, they could simply not bear it. What children really want during this stage is for everything they learn about — even if it is part of inorganic nature — to be presented in living, human terms.
The inner horror (I think one can put it that strongly) of facing a description of the human being remains with the child until about the twelfth year. From the ninth to the twelfth year we can use what I described yesterday as the content for the lessons. As long as we present it imaginatively we can speak about the plant world in terms of hair growing out of the Earth, and we can introduce animal study by showing how in every animal form we can see a part of the human organism, but specialized in a one-sided way. At this stage, however, we must not study the human being directly as an object, because children are not yet ready for this. Only toward the twelfth year do they experience a dim longing to gather together the entire animal kingdom in order to discover synthesis of the animal world in the human being. This can form the new content for the classes, then, following the eleventh and twelfth years.
For you to be told that teachers should relate parts of the human organization to certain animal forms before their pupils have reached the necessary maturity to study the human being as a separate entity may sound contradictory, but life is full of such apparent contradictions. It is correct, nevertheless, to proceed in this way until the great moment comes when teachers can show their students how what is concentrated within one single human individual, is spread out over all of the animal kingdom. To allow children to experience very intensely such decisive moments in life is tremendously important in teaching; and one of these moments is the realization, passing through the child's soul, that the human being as seen physically is both the extract and the synthesis of the entire animal world, but on a higher level. The inner experience of such a climb over a childhood peak — if I may use this comparison — is more important than acquiring knowledge step by step. It will have a beneficial effect for the rest of the child's life. But because of the way our times have developed in an external scientific direction, there is little inclination to look so intimately at human nature. Otherwise things would not happen as they do in our civilization, especially in modern spiritual life. You only need to consider what I emphasized in our first meeting.
Until the seventh year, soul forces are working in all of the child's physical processes, concluding to a certain extent during the change of teeth. I have compared this with a solution that forms a sediment at the bottom of a container. The precipitate represents the denser parts, while a more refined solution remains above it. The two substances have separated from each other. Similarly, until the change of teeth, we can look at the child's physical and etheric bodies as still forming a homogeneous solution until the physical is precipitated, leaving the etheric free to work independently.
But now too much soul substance might be retained by the physical body. Part of the soul substance must always remain behind, because the human physical body must be permeated by soul and spirit throughout life. But too much soul and spiritual substance could be retained so that too little of it remains in the upper region. The result is a human being whose physical body is over-saturated with soul substance and whose soul and spiritual counterpart has become too insubstantial. This condition is met far too frequently, and with the necessary insight one can see it clearly in children between seven and fourteen. But in order to see this, one must be able to distinguish exactly between the coarser and the more refined components of our human organization.
It is essential today that our society develops a physiology backed by a strong enough psychology and a psychology that is not abstract, but supported by the necessary background of physiology. In other words, one has to be able to recognize the interrelationship between body and soul; otherwise an amateurish physiology and an equally amateurish psychology will result. Because of this lack of ability to see clearly through the human being, contemporary scientific life has produced two such dilettante branches of science. The reciprocal effect between them has resulted in “dilettantism squared,” or as it is also called, psychoanalysis.
Just as a number multiplied by itself is that same number squared, so also a dilettante physiology, when multiplied by dilettante psychology, equals psychoanalysis. This is the secret behind the origin of psychoanalysis. I am not saying this to cast aspersions on psychoanalysis. Things could hardly have been otherwise because, due to our present day scientific climate, society lives in a time when psychology has become too diluted and physiology too dense. Seen in this light, physiology, rather than becoming a genuine branch of science, assumes the role of the precipitate from what should have remained as a homogeneous solution. This is only a picture, but I hope that you understand it.
We cannot avoid the need to be clear about how the growing human being develops, and about how we have to give appropriate attention to each particular stage in the life of children. Thus, we find that between the ninth and twelfth years children are receptive to whatever comes to them as pictures. Until about the ninth year they want to participate in the formation of the picture — they will not yet play the role of spectators. During this time teachers have to work with their students in such a living way that their joint efforts, in and of themselves, already have a pictorial quality. It doesn't matter whether actual picture-making is involved, such as painting, drawing, or similar activities; all of the work, the lessons themselves, must form a picture. And then, between the ninth and tenth years, the children develop a new sense for a more external presentation of the pictorial element, and this is when we may appropriately introduce botany and animal study. Those two subjects in particular must be presented pictorially and imaginatively; and the more one can do this, the better one is as a teacher for children between nine and twelve — in contrast to what one finds in the usual textbooks on botany, where a great lack of imagery is displayed. Portraying the plant world in its many forms with true imagination is very rewarding, because to achieve this requires that one be “co-creative.”
This sharing in the world's creativity is just the thing our present culture awaits. People in the middle of life come to me, again and again, full of despair because they cannot comprehend anything pictorially. This shortcoming can be traced back to childhood when their needs were not adequately met.
It is much too easy for the world to laugh when we say that the human being consists of a physical body, etheric body, astral body, and I-being. As long as one merely evaluates these matters with the yardstick of ordinary science, one cannot help but laugh. This is very understandable. But considering the serious tangle of our civilization, one would expect at least some willingness to look for what cannot be found elsewhere. There are many instances of apparent conundrums. Of course, it is easy enough to denigrate the following description of the human being: The physical body is born at birth. It develops through body-bound religiosity, by imitation, until the change of teeth. During these early years the etheric body and all the other forces are fully engaged in working on the child's physical body; they are soul and spiritual forces working in the child. The astral body is born only at puberty, and gains its independent existence from that time on. And as far as the human I is concerned — this is something that can be spoken of with certain reservations only — the I is fully born only after the twentieth year of life. Although it may be wisest to remain silent about this last point when talking to young people engaged in their first years of academic study, it is nevertheless an unalterable fact.
If one does not know the characteristic differences between the four members of the human being, one is likely to look at these differentiations as being nonsense — or at least, something highly superfluous. This changes, however, as soon as one knows about the whole human being. You see, if we look at physical matter we find that its main characteristic is its exertion of a certain pressure. I could equally say that it occupies space. It presses on other matter, pushing it. It also presses on our body, and we experience this pressure through the sense of touch. Physical matter exerts pressure.
The nature of the etheric has a quality all its own. During the last forty or fifty years natural science has seen the etheric as a rather peculiar phenomenon. If one were to speak about all the theories formulated concerning the essence of the etheric, one would be kept busy for a long time. This has already reached the degree that many people assert that the etheric is essentially the same as the principles of mathematics and mechanics that work in space, existing merely as some kind of linear force. To many investigating minds, the essence of the etheric is not much more than differential quotients flying around in space, or at least something that is mathematically calculable.
As you can see, much hard thinking has delved into the question of what the etheric is, and this in itself is admirable enough. However, as long as one continues along these lines, nothing of real significance will be discovered about the etheric. One has to know that the etheric has the characteristic of being the polar opposite of pressure; it has the effect of suction. It always has the tendency to expedite physical matter out of space, to annihilate it. This is the characteristic feature of the etheric. Physical matter fills up space, and the etheric gets rid of space-occupying matter. It could be called negative matter, but in a qualitative sense and not from a quantitative perspective.
This applies also to the human etheric body. Our relationship to the physical and etheric bodies consists of our constantly destroying and renewing ourselves. The etheric continually destroys material substance, and the physical body builds it up again. This statement contradicts the law of conservation of energy, which is generally accepted today. I am mentioning this only in passing, but it is a fact, nevertheless, that this law of conservation of energy is not compatible with the inner nature of the human being, and that it contradicts the truth. Strictly speaking, this law applies only to the inorganic realm. Within the organic world it is only true of the iron particles in the blood serum, but not concerning the whole human being, in whom a constant oscillation occurs between the suction process of the etheric, whose forces destroy matter, and the restoration affected by the physical body.
The astral body not only draws in space but — strange as it sounds — it draws in time! It has the quality of leading backward in time. This will be clearer to us if we consider an older person's life. Imagine that you were, let's say, fifty years old. In your astral body, forces are always at work, leading you back to earlier times in your life, taking you back to times before puberty. Fifty-year-olds do not experience their present age in their astral body, but actually experience themselves as eleven, twelve, thirteen, or fourteen again. These past ages radiate back to them through the backward-leading activity of their astral bodies. This is the secret of life. In reality we grow older only with regard to the physical body, and with the etheric body and its oscillations. The astral body, however, leads us back again and again to previous stages of life. Regarding the astral body we are all still “adult children.” If we imagine the course of our lives expressed symbolically in the form of a tube, and if we have reached a certain point, say aged fifty, then our adult childhood shines right into our fifties, because the astral body always takes us back in time.
In the astral body, one always lives backward, but this retrospective life naturally begins only with the advent of puberty. If one can earnestly accept this in all earnestness, then one will appreciate its implications for education, and will give students something that will serve their later lives. Whatever one decides to do with them would then be seen in the context of their entire lives, even if they live to the age of ninety! This awareness will endow teachers with an appropriate sense of responsibility. It is this feeling of responsibility, arising from the knowledge of what one is really doing, that truly matters. However, this awareness can be developed only if teachers learn to recognize the hidden interconnections that affect human life. And if this happens, teachers will not assert that children should be taught only what they can comprehend fully. Such an attitude is truly appalling if one considers the true nature of the human being; pedagogical textbooks and handbooks written from the perspective of concrete demonstrations can lead one to despair. There the aim is always to come down to the level of the children's present stage of development and to treat everything so that they will see through them in every detail. This method deprives children of immensely important values for life, as anyone can see who recognizes how childhood is related to human life as a whole.
Let's take the example of a child who, at the age of eight, has accepted something that could not yet be comprehended, accepted something simply on the strength of a love and respect for the teacher, simply because whatever the teacher says must be right and good. Here, love for the teacher — or sympathy — was the vehicle for inner acceptance; the child may not understand the matter fully until sometime around the age of thirty-five. It is not easy to speak about such things to modern people, because they tend to disagree with the idea that sufficient maturity is gained only in the thirty-fifth year of life for understanding certain matters. It is nevertheless the truth, however, that only in the thirty-fifth year is one mature enough to understand certain things, things that one accepted as a child out of love for a teacher. Again, at this age one has experiences that result from the astral body's regressive forces. Something arises from within, a kind of a mirror reflection that, in reality, is a return to the days of childhood. It is like the arising of an inner vision. One is thirty-five years old, has become mature, and from the depths of one's soul there comes the realization: Only now do I understand what I accepted on trust when I was eight.
This ability to understand something that, permeated with love, has thus lived in one's being for many years, has a tremendously revitalizing effect on one's life. We can give this potential force of rejuvenation to children by safeguarding their inborn feeling for authority — so that such feeling can become a vehicle for love and sympathy — and also by giving children what they cannot yet fully comprehend, but will gradually ripen during the coming years of life. Such interconnections are not recognized by teachers who bring to their classes only what lies within their pupils' present capacity to understand. On the other hand, the opposite view is equally wrong and out of place. A teacher who knows human nature would never tell a child, “You cannot yet understand this.” One must never resort to such a remark, because one can always clothe what one has to say in an appropriate garment if the necessary rapport has been established with the students.
If the pedagogy we are speaking of here becomes instinctive, one will know just what to say at the right moment. Above all, one will avoid sharply defined or rigid concepts. It is really appalling when a teacher's ideas and concepts have been worked out to the degree that they are no longer adaptable or flexible. They would have an effect similar to the effect of iron gloves forced onto a child's little hands, preventing them from growing naturally. We must not chain children's minds to finished concepts, but give them concepts that can grow and expand further. We must give them living concepts that can be transformed. But this can be achieved only through an imaginative approach in every subject, certainly until the twelfth year; then the method of teaching I have thus far sketched for you will encourage you to use language creatively, to draw helpful drawings on the blackboard or to take up a paintbrush to make colorful illustrations of what you want to communicate. But there must always be an awareness that everything a teacher brings has to be inwardly mobile and capable of remaining so; for one must recognize that, with the approach of the twelfth year (actually very close to the twelfth year), something new begins to develop, and that is the sense for cause and effect.
Before the approach of the twelfth year, the concept of causality does not exist in the minds of children. They have an eye for what is mobile. They can apprehend ideas that are flexible, and they can perceive what comes in the form of pictures or music; anything connected with causality, however, makes no sense to them until about the twelfth year. Consequently, this concept must be avoided at all costs until this time, and then we may consider a newly emerging understanding for the relationship between cause and effect. Only at that time do children begin to have their own thoughts about various things. Previously they saw the world in pictures; but now something begins to dawn that will light up only at puberty — that is, the life of thinking and the ability to form judgments, which is closely connected with thinking.
Between the change of teeth and puberty, children live primarily in the realm of feeling; before the change of teeth, they live in the region of the will, which, while still far removed from the sphere of thinking, is intimately connected with the fact that children imitate their surroundings. But what enters the child's being physically at that time also contains moral and spiritual forces, which became firmly established in the child's organism. This is why, during the tenth and eleventh years (and in most cases until the beginning of the twelfth year) it is impossible to communicate knowledge that demands an understanding of causality. Consequently, one should not introduce students to the mineral kingdom until around the twelfth year. Also, concepts connected with physics should not be explored before that age, although these have to be prepared for earlier through imagery that bypasses causality. Anything relating to cause and effect in the inorganic world can be grasped by children only around the twelfth year. This is one side of the problem.
We meet the other side when teaching history. Around the twelfth year it is impossible to awaken in students an understanding of the complex fabric of historical interconnections. Until that age it is wise for teachers to present graphic descriptions of historical personages whose actions, due to their goodness, truth, and other qualities of greatness, will stimulate sympathy or, in the case of negative qualities, antipathy in the souls of children. At this stage, historical content should appeal, above all, to the students' feelings. This can be accomplished by a wise selection of historical personalities and events; these should, in themselves, present a complete story, which should nevertheless remain flexible in the students' minds (in the sense mentioned). Causal links between earlier and later historical events can be taught meaningfully only at the dawn of the regressive forces of the astral body; these forces come increasingly into their own after the fourteenth year. At about the twelfth year, children enter this reverse stream, and this is the time when one can begin to appeal to a sense of causality in history as well.
When this is done earlier (and closely connected with the concept of cause and effect is the formation of judgments) one puts something into motion that can become very damaging in later life. At first there is only the child's etheric body. Toward the twelfth year, the astral body slowly begins its process of birth, which is completed at puberty. But the etheric body was already fully developed before that. If you ask students to make judgments (which always have a yes or no quality), or if you have them remember prefabricated concepts, these will enter the etheric body instead of the still unborn astral body. But what else does the astral body carry? As you may conclude from the facts of sexual maturity, the astral body also carries human love. Love is, of course, already active in children before puberty, but it has not yet reached an independent existence, has not yet been born fully. Thus, critical judgments, with their attendant yes-or-no qualities, are instilled in the child's etheric body instead of in the astral body. On the other hand, when made at the right time, the astral body's power of love and benevolence becomes an integral part in forming judgments or criticisms. If you make the mistake of forcing children to form critical judgments — of making them decide between yes and no — too early, then you fill their etheric bodies with immature judgments. But the ether body is not benevolent. It draws in whatever is in its way. Indeed, in this context, it is even malicious; it has a destructive effect. And this is what you do to children when you ask them to decide yes-or-no judgments prematurely, because a yes-or-no judgment is always behind the concept of causality.
On the other hand, a historical process that is complete in itself, or historical characters who are vividly described, can simply be looked at in the way one looks at pictures. As soon as one links later historical periods to earlier ones, however, one has to make judgments, one has to reject or accept, and this choice always contains an element of yes or no. The final outcome of such premature judgment in children under the age of fourteen is an inner resentment toward judgments that are generally accepted by society. If the power of judging is developed too early, the judgments of others are received with a latent destructive force rather than with benevolence. These things demonstrate the importance of doing the right thing at the right time.
Keeping this in mind, let us again compare the animal with the human being. When looking at the animal's outer appearance, its form indicates everything it does. We can also observe the animal's behavior. But in the case of the human being, we have to look for inner causes. Since children are only mature enough to look for causes in the twelfth year, this is the proper time to present the animal world as a “spread-out human being,” or the human being as the synthesis of the entire animal kingdom. This is an instance where the teacher is asked to affect an experience in the child that satisfies an inner demand and readiness at this particular stage.
But now you have to acknowledge that this marks a powerful reversal in the child's nature between the change of teeth and puberty. In a certain sense, the child's soul now proceeds entirely from within outward. Recall that, until the twelfth year, children could not stand listening to a description of the human being, and now they are beginning to look at themselves as mirrors of the world — and they do this conceptually, in the form of ideas. This new readiness for a portrayal of the human being — that is, a portrayal of themselves — really does represent a complete about-face of children's nature between the second dentition and puberty.
During this same time — roughly between the ninth and tenth years — another very important transition occurs in the child's life. Individually, this change can vary; in some children it doesn't happen until after the tenth year. Each child, instinctively, unconsciously, faces a kind of riddle of life. This change of direction from within outward, this new awareness of being a self surrounded by an external world — whereas previously these two aspects were woven together — is something the child does not experience consciously, but through inner doubts and restlessness, which make themselves felt at that time. Physically, the breathing becomes properly integrated into the blood circulation, as the two processes begin to harmonize and balance each other. The relationship between the pulse and breathing is established. This is the physical aspect. The soul and spiritual counterpart is a new kind of dependence of the child on help from teachers or educators. This appeal for help is not necessarily expressed by direct questions, but in a characteristic form of behavior.
And now the teacher is called on to develop the skill necessary to correctly weigh this great, but unspoken, life question that lives in every student, although differently in each individual. What is this great life question? Up to this point, the child's natural sense of authority resulted from the image of the teacher as representative and mediator for the whole world. For the child, the stars moved because the teacher knew the stars' movement. Things were good or evil, beautiful or ugly, and true or false because this was the teacher's assessment. Everything that came from the world had to find the child through the teacher, and this represented the only healthy relationship between teacher and child.
Now however, between the ninth and the tenth years — sometimes a little later — a question arises within the child's soul, not as a concept or idea, but as a feeling. “From where does my teacher receive all this knowledge?” At this moment the teacher begins to become transparent to the student, if I may say it pictorially. The child wants to see the world as living behind the teacher, who must not fail now to confirm the student's heartfelt conviction that the teacher is properly attuned to the world, and embodies truth, beauty, and goodness. At this stage, the unconscious nature of children tests the teacher as never before. They want to discover whether the teacher is truly worthy of representing the entire world.
Again, all this has to remain unspoken. If a teacher were ever to mention or allude to it, through explanations or in other ways, this would appear only as a sign of weakness to the child, whose present state of consciousness has not yet developed a sense of causality; anything that requires proof only shows weakness and inner uncertainty. It is unnecessary to prove what is experienced powerfully in the soul.
This is also true concerning the history of our civilization. I do not want to go into details now, but merely give you a dynamic impression; until a particular time during the Middle Ages, people knew the meaning of the Last Supper. For them there was no need for proof. Then the situation suddenly changed. When seen in the proper light, this just shows that a real understanding of this event no longer existed. If someone is caught red-handed, no one would have to prove that such person is a thief. But if a thief escapes unseen, then proof must be found before that person can be properly called a thief. Proof is always demanded in cases of uncertainty, but not for what the facts of life tell us directly. This is why it is so ludicrous whenever people try to find the inner connection between formal logic and reality. This is somewhat like looking for the inner connection between a path leading to a mountain, and the mountain itself; the path is there to allow the wanderer to reach the mountain, and then the mountain itself begins. Logic is there only for the sake of reaching reality, and reality begins where logic ends.
Awareness of these things is of fundamental importance. One must not make the mistake of wanting to prove to students, when they are going through this important stage in life, that the world is being truthfully interpreted for them. When adjusting to this new situation in the classroom, one has to bring about in the pupils an unreasoned conviction that the teacher knows even more than they had previously imagined. The proper relationship between teacher and students can be established once again, perhaps while surprising the children with an amiable off-hand remark about something new and unexpected, which will make them sit up and listen; this can now happen if students feel that, until now, their teacher has not yet shown his or her true courage at all, and can truly reach unexpected heights. One has to save some things for just such moments, so that the teacher's image will continue to command respect. The solution to an important question of life lies within the students' feeling that their teacher can grow beyond even the boundaries of the personality. Here also are the comfort and strength one must give to children at this stage, so that one does not disappoint the hopeful expectations with which they come. Inwardly, such children were longing for reassurance from the one person for whom they had already developed sympathy and love. If this critical moment goes unnoticed, teachers will have to go through the bitter experience of losing their authority and hold over students around the ages of nine to ten. They may well feel tempted, therefore, to prove everything they do, and this dreadful mistake will only make matters worse.
When this view of education has become second nature, one will also find other helpful guidelines. But whatever is presented in class has to cohere; it has to fit together. I have already told you that we allow our young children paint quite freely and naturally, out of their own formative forces — at first not with colored pencils but with liquid colors. Through this, one soon realizes how much children live within the world of colors. After a while, the young student will come gradually to experience something distant — something that draws us away into far distances — as blue. It goes without saying that the teacher must have experienced this quality of blue as well. Yellow and red seem to move toward the beholder. Children can already experience this in a very concrete way during the seventh or eighth year, unless they have been plagued with fixed tasks in drawing or painting. Of course, if you force children to copy houses or trees representationally, this color experience will soon be lost. But if one guides children so they can feel: Wherever I move my hand, there the color follows — then the type of material used is of secondary importance. Or: The color really begins to live under my fingers — it wants to spread a little further. Whenever such feelings can be drawn out in children's souls, one enables them to discover something fundamental and significant — that is, color perspective. A child will feel that the reddening yellow comes towards us, and that mauve-blue takes us further away. This is how one can livingly prepare the ground for something that must be introduced at a later stage — linear perspective; it is very harmful to teach this subject before students have had an intensive experience of color perspective. To teach them quantitative perspective without their first having inwardly absorbed qualitative perspective — which is inherent in the experience of color — has the thoroughly harmful effect of making them superficial.
But there are even further implications. If you prevent children from having an intensive experience of color perspective, they will not develop the necessary incentive while learning to read (always remembering the reservation expressed yesterday, that it is unnecessary to push a child into reading at the earliest possible time). These color experiences will stimulate mobility in the child's mental imagery, suppleness in feelings, and flexibility in the will activities. The child's entire soul life will become more sensitive and pliable. It may well be that, if you use the method of painting-drawing and drawing-painting, the child will not learn to read as quickly. But when the right time comes, reading will not be anchored too loosely, which can happen, nor too tightly, as if each letter were making a kind of a scratch upon the tender soul-substance of the child.
The important thing is that whatever is comprehended through soul and spiritual faculties should find its proper realm within the human being. We should never ask: What is the point of teaching the child to paint, if it will never be used in later life? This represents an entirely superficial view of life because, in reality, a child has every need for just this activity; if one wants to understand the complexity of a child's needs, one just has to know something about the spiritual background of the human being. Just as the expression “You can't understand this” should never be used when talking to children, so also there should never be a skeptical attitude among adults concerning what a child needs or does not need. These needs should be recognized as flowing from the human constitution itself; and if they are, one will respond with the right instinct. One will not worry unduly, either, if a child forgets some of what has already been learned, because knowledge is transmuted into capacities, and these are truly important later in life. Such capacities will not develop if you overload a child with knowledge. It is essential to realize — and actually practice — that one should impress in the student's memory only what is demanded by social life, that there is no purpose in overburdening the student's memory.
This brings us to the question concerning the relationship between the individual and society, national or ethnic background, and humanity as a whole. When addressing this problem, we must try to avoid harming human nature when blending external demands with our educational practice.
A question is asked regarding music lessons given to a seventeen-year-old girl.
RUDOLF STEINER: The essential thing is what Mister Baumann has already presented to us. 1Paul Baumann (1887–1964) music teacher at the Waldorf School in Stuttgart, Germany. With the beginning of puberty and during the following years, a certain musical judgment takes the place of a previous feeling for music and of a general musical experience. The faculty of forming musical judgments emerges. This becomes very noticeable through the phenomenon characterized by Mister Baumann — that is, a certain self-observation begins to manifest, a self-observation of the student's own singing and, with it, the possibility of using the voice more consciously, and so on. This has to be cultivated methodically.
At the same time, however, something else becomes noticeable — that is, from this stage on, natural musical memory begins to weaken a little, with the effect that students have to make more effort to remember music. This is something that has to be especially remembered during music lessons. Whereas, before puberty the children's relationship to music was spontaneous and natural, and because of this their musical memory was excellent, some of them now begin to encounter difficulties — not in taking in music, but in remembering it. This needs to be addressed. One must try to go over the same music several times, not by immediate repetition, but intermittently.
Another characteristic sign at this particular stage is that, whereas previously the instrumental and vocal parts of a piece were experienced as a unity, after the sixteenth to seventeenth years they are listened to with clear discrimination. (From a psychological point of view there is a fine and intimate difference between these two ways of listening.) At this age, musical instruments are listened to far more consciously. There is also a greater understanding for the musical qualities of various instruments. Whereas earlier the instrument appeared to join in with the singing, it is now heard as a separate part. Listening and singing become two separate, though parallel, activities.
This new relationship between singing and the appreciation of the part played by musical instruments is characteristic of this new stage, and the methods of teaching must be changed accordingly. What is important is not to introduce any music theory before this age.
Music should be approached directly and any theoretical observations a teacher may wish to make should come from the students' practical experience of it. Gradually it should become possible for pupils of this age to make the transition toward forming musical judgments on a more rational basis.
What Mister Baumann indicated at the end of his contribution is absolutely correct: one can make use of the ways pupils express themselves musically to increase certain aspects of their self-knowledge. For example, in the Waldorf school we let the older students do some modeling, and from the very beginning one can perceive individual characteristics in what they produce. (When you ask children to model something or other, their work will always display distinctly individual features.) But with regard to musical activities, the teacher cannot go into the pupils' more individual characteristics until the age of sixteen or seventeen. Then, to avoid one-sidedness, it is proper to address questions presented by too much attraction toward a particular musical direction. If pupils of that age develop a passion for certain types of music — for example, if they are strongly drawn to Wagner's music (and in our times many young people slide into becoming pure Wagnerians almost automatically) — then the teacher must try to counterbalance their tendency to be too emotionally swept away by music, rather than developing an appreciation of the inner configuration of the music itself. (This in no way implies any criticism of Wagner's music.)
What happens in such a case is that the musical experience slips too easily into the emotional sphere and consequently needs to be lifted again into the realm of consciousness. A musician will notice this even in the quality of a pupil's singing voice. If music is experienced too much in the realm of feeling, the voice will sound differently from that of a young person who listens more to the formation of the tones, and who has a correct understanding of the more structural element in music.
To work toward a balanced musical feeling and understanding is particularly important at this age. Of course, the teacher, who is still the authority, does not yet have an opportunity to work in this way before the student reaches puberty. After puberty, the teacher's authority no longer counts, but the weight of the teacher's musical judgments does. Until puberty, right or wrong is concurrent with what the teacher considers to be right or wrong. After puberty reasons have to be given — musical reasons also. Therefore it is very important to go deeply into the motivation of one's own musical judgments if there is an opportunity for continuing music lessons at this age. The whole night could be spent talking about this theme, if one wished to.
Question: Is there not an element of dishonesty in asking a child a question if one knows the answer?
RUDOLF STEINER: There is something very interesting at the bottom of this question. Usually, if I ask a question it is because I want to find an answer to something I don't know. If I now question a child — knowing the answer — I commit an untruth. However, in teaching there are always imponderables to be reckoned with, and sometimes it becomes necessary to become clear about this point.
To do that, I often use the following example: If, as a teacher, one wants to speak about the question of immortality in a religious and imaginative way, one might choose the following procedure, and say to oneself: Since children cannot yet comprehend conceptual thoughts, I will use an image to convey the idea of the soul's immortality. As the teacher, I am the one who knows, and my students are uninformed. From my knowledge I will create a picture for them and say, “Look at a cocoon. When the time is right it opens, and a beautiful butterfly flies out. And just as the butterfly flies out of the cocoon, so the immortal soul flies out of the body when a human being dies.” This is one way to approach the subject. Fine; but if such is one's attitude, one may find that the chosen image does not make a deep impression in the children at all. This is because the teacher, with all ingenuity, does not believe the truth of this image, which is used only to illustrate the issue of immortality to “uninformed” children.
But there is another possibility as well — that the teacher believes the truth of this picture. Then one's attitude could be: Despite my limited knowledge and wisdom, I am aware of what is real in the world, and I do believe the truth of this image. I know that I did not invent it, but that it was placed in the world through the powers that ordained the world. Through the butterfly creeping from the cocoon, what happens when the immortal human soul leaves the body is represented on a lower level, but in sense-perceptible form. And I can and do believe in this revelation.
Notice the difference: If teachers believe in the truth of their images and the words used to describe them, their inner attitude will communicate itself to the students. Innumerable examples of this can be found. And so, similarly, imponderables play into the interesting question just raised. It's not important that, as the teacher, one has the opinion: I know my subject, the child does not know it; now I will ask my question, pretending that I want to hear the answer to something I do not know. It does make a great difference, after all, whether I ask the child a question, for example, about the Battle of Zabern, and I know the answer but the child does not, or whether I know the answer and the child also knows it. The untruth would be in asking something I already know. But I could also have a different attitude — that is, I am interested in how the child answers the question. I may phrase my question to find out what the child feels and thinks about a particular point. In this case I don't know in advance what the child will say. The child's answer could have many different shades or nuances.
Let's assume that the teacher's ideal attitude — something I have often emphasized in my lectures — is that even the wisest is not beyond the capacity to learn, even from a tiny baby. For, no matter how far one may have advanced in scientific knowledge, a baby's cry can still teach one very much. If this is the ideal, the way a child answers each question will help teachers learn how to teach. If teachers ask questions, it does not imply that they want to hear something from their pupils that they already know, but that they themselves want to learn from the way a child answers. They will then also phrase their questions properly. For example, they may formulate a question like this: What does this mean to you? Even the tone of voice may indicate the teacher's interest in how the child will answer.
It is a fact that much depends on the imponderables that affect what happens between teacher and child. If what is going on in the child's subconscious is known, one will also discover many other things. The whole question of untruth in the teacher is part of this theme also — that is, what we find when teachers stand before their classes teaching from books or written notes. It can certainly be very convenient for them, but such expediency has a very devastating effect on the actual teaching. This is because, in their subconscious, the children are continually forming the judgment: Why should we be made to learn what even teachers do not know? Why are we made to know what they are reading from their books? This is an even greater untruth that enters the classroom than if teachers ask questions. Even when dictating, teachers should avoid doing so from books. If one perceives what is happening in the child, and if the child can feel the teacher's genuine interest in the pupils, and thus not asking questions with false undertones, the whole situation is entirely different. Then teachers can safely ask their questions without fear of introducing an element of untruth into their lessons.