Rudolf Steiner in the Waldorf School
Address at the second official members’ meeting of the Independent Waldorf School Association
20 June 1922, Stuttgart
After the points of business, Rudolf Steiner took the floor:
On the whole, it can be said that many of the outcomes of our goals actually constitute a single phenomenon within a larger framework of facts. Please allow me to make a few comments on this, and especially on the experience we have gathered since founding the Waldorf School.
As you know, we founded the Waldorf School as one part of the effects that were intended to proceed from a spiritual movement that is over two decades old. The Waldorf School would be inconceivable without this spiritual movement. In its particulars, the plan to found the school came from our dear friend Emil Molt at a time when there was a certain interest in great humanitarian questions because it was a time of such great need. Counting on this interest, we began to work in many different directions to try to influence aspects of public life from anthroposophical points of view. We may well say that since that time we have been able to acquire very extensive experience along certain lines.
To begin with, we encountered a certain interest that promised to encompass broader circles. In 1919 humanity had a great interest in working in one or the other direction to enable forces of ascent to replace the forces of decline that were so evident. And today we still see a universal interest in educational issues, not only in Central Europe but all over the world. It is a remarkable fact that this year’s Shakespeare festival in Stratford actually took place under the auspices of educational issues. You know that I myself had to give lectures at this festival, and that the event stood fully under the sign of educational issues. In fact, a committee on new ideals in education organized this event. This summer we will have another opportunity to have a conference, this time at Oxford, where nine out of twelve lectures will deal with educational issues in a narrower sense. 1This international congress on “Spiritual Values in Education and Social Life” at which Rudolf Steiner was invited to speak took place under the patronage of the English Minister of Education and others active in public life in England. From August 16-25, 1922, Steiner spoke on “The Basic Forces of Soul and Spirit in the Art of Education” [Die geistig-seelischen Grundkréfte der Erziehungskunst], 12 lectures, Oxford, 1922, GA 305, 1978], see The Spiritual Ground of Education, Garber Publications, Blauvelt, NY, nd. This shows that at any rate an interest in educational issues is still present today.
This interest is to be found everywhere. In the widest possible circles today, we definitely find that educational issues are thought to be the most important issues of all. We find numerous people who believe, and rightly so, that any talk of social issues does not rest on firm ground if it does not take educational issues as its starting point. We have come to realize that the chaos that humanity has fallen into and will continue to fall into has essentially been brought about by our failure to place the right value on the spiritual issues of humankind’s evolution.
However, this interest is “thought interest,” if I may put it like that. The way in which this interest manifests clearly shows that we are dealing with some kind of thought interest. People organize conferences on education just as they organize other conferences today. They get together and talk about educational issues, and it cannot be denied that extraordinarily clever things are talked about at these gatherings. People nowadays talk with extraordinary cleverness. A large portion of humanity today is smart, and it is also the case that the majority of these very smart people like to hear themselves talk. This creates the best circumstances imaginable for holding conferences to discuss how to find ways out of these chaotic conditions.
If it depended only on conferences of this sort, we would be well on the way. Ladies and gentlemen, this is something we should consider very carefully. I have often stated that I am convinced that if twelve people or some other number of people would get together to undertake to establish an agenda for educating children in the best way, something extremely clever would come out of it. I say this in complete seriousness. When it comes to establishing an agenda for assembling the best pedagogical principles for dealing with children, the literature available today is excellent. What people are saying today in these conferences is literature. However, it all depends on accomplishing the work that is to be done on the basis of real life. People who establish agendas are never dealing with real life. In real life you deal with a certain number of students and a certain number of teachers; you deal with people. These people will do what needs doing; they will do whatever they can do.
However, in order to actually accomplish what is theoretically possible, we depend on having our hands free to do our work on a humanitarian basis. This brings us to the fact that nowadays the presence of a “thought interest” in great existential issues is much less important than the presence of the will to actually bring about the conditions that make a system of education such as this one possible. The remarkable thing about this is that while there is the broadest possible interest in the thought or the feeling that such and such ought to be, this is not accompanied by any real will interest. That no real will interest accompanies it is the reason why I call what it is our conferences deal with, “literature.” Literature is what it actually is; it is not something that will be transformed into action.
One of the most important facts about the background of the Waldorf School is that we were in a position to make the anthroposophical movement a relatively large movement. The anthroposophical movement has become a large one. This is evident from the fact that difficult anthroposophical books go through many editions.” 2For example, if paperback editions are included, in 1980 7heosophywas in its 30th German edition (164,000), Occult Science in its 29th edition (108,000), How to Attain Knowledge of Higher Worlds in its 21st edition (150,000), The Philosophy of Freedomy/Spiritual Activity in its 14th edition (156,000) and Riddles of Philosophy in its eighth edition (31,000). Interest springs up everywhere. This is a “thought interest,” or even goes beyond thought interest to the extent that the people who come together in the anthroposophical movement also have a feeling interest in it, an interest of the heart. In all of our modern movements people are coming together with a mere “thought interest” that is transformed into a talking interest in those who are somewhat active. The anthroposophical movement gathers together those people who have an intense human need, a soul need, to make headway with regard to the essence of the human being. This is what things look like when we consider an interest in knowledge, a feeling interest, more theoretically. There are very many people today who realize that there is something here that can satisfy their spiritual interests. That is how it stands today, and I hope that its growth is guaranteed in spite of the scandalous opposition to it.
But what we are lacking are people who are not merely interested in the anthroposophical movement becoming as large as possible and bringing forth as much spiritual content as possible, but who are also interested in making this anthroposophical movement happen, in being co-workers in its coming about. There are extraordinarily few of them. We have many people who listen, many who want something for themselves, but we have extraordinarily few people who are co-workers in the fullest sense of the word.
You know, when our conference in Vienna was being organized, which was not a conference in the same sense as other conferences — the point of our conferences is for people to get together to receive something they can take home, while in other conferences everyone wants to get rid of what they bring from home — in any case, when this conference was being organized, there had to be workers there to get ready for it and bring it about, and there had to be speakers there. There are always a small number of friends who nearly have to run their legs off, work their fingers to the bone writing letters, and empty out their wallets. There are only a small number of them, the Waldorf teachers and a small number of others, and they are thoroughly overworked almost every month of the year because of their involvement. Actually, they are always terribly overworked.
But at the end of a conference such as this, even if it is as successful as the one in Vienna, we experience once again that although all the conditions are in place for our Waldorf system of education to expand, or something of that sort, the way these conditions come about means that the small number of active people get in over their heads. Again and again we have to be on the lookout for new coworkers. Perhaps not all of you will agree with me, but I would like to state my experience quite openly. As things stand today, I believe there would be a possibility of gaining plenty of members. I got the impression in Vienna that it would be possible to attract enough people who would become coworkers in the best sense of the word.
But — and here our general concern coincides with our concern for the Waldorf School — at this point we bump up against the fact that it is not possible to expand our circle of coworkers for the simple reason that we have no money. People everywhere have the means of supporting their coworkers, but this is only possible for us to a very inadequate extent. The main question is always how to offer people the means to exist when we disconnect them from their previous means. That is the fact of the matter. Today, if we want to move forward, we need a large number of coworkers. Those we have are simply not enough. Thus, what needs to be taken care of can be done only by exhausting the strength of the forces we have, and what can be done in this way is at most a tenth of what could be accomplished under conditions at present if we could count on a full complement of coworkers. After the Vienna conference in particular, we could watch the experience I have just described welling up.
Naturally this is not a question of an ordinary appeal to the wallets of those who are already members. That is not the issue. The issue, to put it very strongly for once, is that in recent times whenever we have appealed to the will, the matter in question failed.
In the end, the Waldorf School movement is connected to the threefold movement. The Waldorf School movement is conceivable only within a free spiritual life. The “thought interest” we met with at first has not led to a will interest. When the attempt was made to accomplish the deed of founding the World School Association as our only means of expanding beyond Central Europe, this attempt failed. 3See note p. 119. It was to have encompassed the entire civilized world. The attempt to rouse whatever belief people had that the educational system must change, which was what was being attempted in the World School Association, was a miserable fiasco. There is such a terrible feeling of being rebuffed when you appeal to the will. I do not say that I am appealing for money in this case. We are lacking in money, but we are lacking in will to a much greater extent. The interest that exists does not go very deep, otherwise it would extend to the right areas.
We were able to found the Waldorf School. Herr Stockmeyer 4A teacher at the Independent Waldorf School in Stuttgart. read the ruling, 5See note p. 95. the gist of which was that as of Easter of 1925 we will lose our first grade, and eventually the four lowest classes. We would hardly have been able to open the school at all anywhere else. In founding the Waldorf School, we took advantage of the right moment in which it was possible to do such a thing.
Whenever the educational system is at the mercy of universal schematization, we can point to strongly working forces of decline. We encounter them everywhere. We can point them out wherever what is laid down in the regulations for primary schools is taken to the last stage. In Lunatsharsky’s school system in Soviet Russia, it has been carried through to its conclusion. People there are thinking the way we will think here when this is carried through to its conclusion and the full consequences have been felt. The current misery in Eastern Europe is what comes of it when this way of thinking about non-independent schools finds its way into practice.
I am trying to speak today in a way that awakens enthusiasm, so that people feel the spiritual blood trickling in their souls and a large number of people who realize this will commit themselves, so that public opinion is aroused. Actually, I must say that at any point in the last twenty years when I tried to speak a language that appealed to people’s hearts not only in a theoretical sense, but to the heart as an organ of will, what I felt, first in the Anthroposophical Society and later in other groups, always made me wonder, “Dont people have ears?” It seemed that people could not hear things that were supposed to move from words to action. The experience of the fiasco of the World School Association was enough to drive one to despair.
How do we think when we hear something such as this ruling that was read aloud? We think that perhaps ways and means will be found to push through the lower classes for a few years, after all. Even in more intimate circles, not much more comes of it than thinking, “Well, maybe the possibility will be there for a few more years.” The point, however, is for all of us to stand behind it now. Education must evolve independently, as has been emphasized ever since 1919. There is no other way for this to become a reality than through general acceptance of what is offered by the members of our various associations, who are in full agreement that something like this should exist, and through them being joined by more and more people who will become active members. The will has to develop first!
I would like to tell you how my calculation goes: If numbers speak, we can say that we have no money. Having said that, we then collect money and fill the gap by the skin of our teeth.
However, we will also not get very far by this means. We will get further only by the means I intended in speaking of the World School Association. We must have an active faith that what is being done will really become a factor in public opinion. In order to maintain the Waldorf School and establish additional schools, we need a growing public conviction that continuing in the sense of the old school system will lead only to forces of decline within humanity. This conviction is what we need. We will move forward only when instead of merely establishing schools here and there for the sake of practicing some kind of educational quackery, we can make the breakthrough to deciding to take our educational principles to the public in a way that will make them a matter of inner conviction for parents and non-parents alike.
Please excuse me, but in a certain respect I really cannot avoid saying that I know many people will recognize the truth in what I have just said, but you only really acknowledge the truth of something by doing something about it! By doing something about it! This is why, above all, we must make sure that we do not found schools simply to an extent that lies within our existing means, which come from our branches and from wallets that are already empty. We must try to work for ideas and ideals so that an ever growing number of people is imbued with them.
In this respect our actual experience is just the opposite. The current issue of the newspaper for threefolding has just announced that in future it will be a magazine for anthroposophy. Why? Because the promising beginnings in understanding threefolding have petered out. Because, fundamentally, we must go back to the style we had prior to the threefolding movement. In spite of the fact that a lot has been said about threefolding, this is another case of being driven to despair when you talk with people. We need something to come of this; we need it to enter public opinion. That is what we need above all else if we want to make progress with the Waldorf School.
I must admit that I have been saying this for a long time. But just about anything else strikes a chord more readily than what I have said today. I would like to say that if I see what lives in people’s will as mere faith — well, no one believes that mere faith, the mere faith that humanity can only be helped by having an independent system of education, will accomplish anything. But it would lead people who are still able to do so to support us financially, so that we would not continually be left empty-handed in comparison to other movements.
The anthroposophical movement is the basis of the Waldorf School movement. Even if it is set back by scandalous things such as are happening now, 6The opposition to Rudolf Steiner and the Goetheanum. it has within it the necessary prerequisites for life. A lot of associations are founded that have adequate monetary means but no inherent prerequisites for life. Associations are constantly being founded, and people have money for them, and yet they fail. If all the money that people spend today on unnecessary associations could be directed into our channels, then the reports would look different. Herr Leinhas 7Chief accountant of the Independent Waldorf School Association. would have to report that our reserve fund is so large that we will have to try to invest it fruitfully.
I do not believe at all that the main thing for us today is our lack of money. What we are lacking is the will to assert ourselves in real life, to insist that the portion of spiritual life that we acknowledge as true be given its due in the world. What use would it be if I had claimed that our effectiveness in the past year was satisfactory in some way? But here, in a members’ meeting, it is necessary to speak from this point of view. I am fully convinced that our Waldorf School can get as good as it can, but if we do not find the possibility of imbuing public opinion with our educational impulses, then all of our fancy arithmetic will not help us at all.
The will to convince everyone must be present in an everincreasing number of people. In addition, the conviction must become widespread that for the salvation of humanity, it is necessary for something such as is present in embryonic form in the Waldorf School to keep on growing.
That is what I wanted to have said to that percentage of hearts in which the impulse of will is present. We can get very far if we only think about what it depends on: It depends on us using our will to really get public opinion to where it ought to be. That is what I needed to say.
From the discussion
I must add that a great number of parents have expressed the request that something be done by the Waldorf School to manage the relationship of the faculty to the parent body — what can the parents themselves do for the children? I would like to say that we will very soon be giving careful thought to how we can work in this direction. At parents’ evenings, I myself will try to offer something along the lines indicated by these many signatures. 7The thrust of this request can be gathered from Rudolf Steiner’s presentation on “Issues of School and Home” at the parents’ evening on June 22, 1923. See pp. 190-202 of this volume.
We will try to do everything possible along these lines in the very near future.
Expanding our circle of coworkers can be achieved only if the circumstances of which I spoke become a reality. Something must first be done to shape public opinion so that more extensive work can be undertaken. Then it will be possible to do many things. But as long as what is growing on our grounds remains the secret of the members, we will not be able to move on.
A question is asked, among others, regarding the official ruling mentioned in the speech.
Dr. Steiner: It would not help us to file a complaint with the authorities. As many people as possible must be won over to the idea that such a school should exist. The authorities are doing the right thing if that is the law. It is a question of opinjons gaining a foothold, becoming an effective force. There is something much deeper at stake. We must decide to interpret things ambitiously, to realize that what we think to be right must become the opinion of the public. The point is to get this idea into as many heads as possible. That must be accomplished so that as many people as possible change their view.
Dr. Steiner (in response to a suggestion). That does not come into question at all. Influencing public opinion is the only possible means of bringing the other methods up for discussion. To win over public opinion is the only practical way for us to go. We have not done so because there are far too few of us who believe in such a thing. I imagined that the World School Association would be promulgated in a certain way. If the monthly contribution could be one franc per member, we would be able to achieve what would have to be achieved by such an association. It would only be a question of individuals working in such a way that enthusiasm is present in their will.
Without doing that, we will get no further; we will simply manage to use up our last reserves. Even if we still find a lot of well-meaning members, it would be impractical to carry out. Even if something like that were to become a reality, we would only use up our last reserves. Our experience has shown most recently that it is necessary to attract the circles that are interested in what we are doing but are being kept away by the fact that the majority of the current membership feels the urge to keep the membership small.
May I still say that although we have established a certain level of contribution for membership, it is very good not to exclude anyone who is simply not in a position to pay the whole amount. Alongside the paragraph in the bylaws, let us remember among ourselves that people can also pay less.