Faculty Meetings with Rudolf Steiner
17 June 1921, Stuttgart
Dr. Steiner: We need to look more closely at the ninth grade. After I more thoroughly considered yesterday’s discussion, I do not think we can take care of that class if we burden one teacher like Dr. Schubert, which is what would undoubtedly happen. I think we need to hire another teacher for the 1b class, and, in my opinion, Dr. Plinke would do well as a Waldorf teacher. She was here just today. I asked about her a few days ago, but could not obtain any real information about her stay here. I think she should take over the 1b class, and then Dr. Schubert’s work could be done differently.
Concerning the curriculum of the tenth grade, we need to take into consideration German language and literature. That would be a continuation of what was done in the ninth grade.
A teacher: I had them read Jean Paul.
Dr. Steiner: You had them read and complete Jean Paul.
A teacher: They completed the chapter about humor.
Dr. Steiner: What is now important is that you begin a comprehensive presentation of meter and poetics. Upon the basis of what they have learned from Jean Paul, the children will be able to learn a great deal here. In any event, we must avoid normal pedantic school methods. We must teach living poetry in a living way and treat it in a reasonable manner.
The class could then study The Song of the Niebelungs and Gudrun. Where possible, you should study it in Middle High German. As time allows, go through it in Middle High German, but also speak about the entire context of the poem, its artistic and folk meaning and, aside from the passages that you read, go through it so that the children learn the entire content. Of course, with The Song of the Niebelungs, you could do some Middle High German grammar and compare it with that of modern High German. That would be sufficient for the tenth grade, but begin with meter.
A teacher: Could you perhaps recommend a German book about meter?
Dr. Steiner: They are all equally good and equally bad. Take a look at Göschen’s anthology, one of the worst methods, but you will find the concepts there. There isn’t a good book on meter and poetics — Bartsch, Lachmann, and so forth. Simrock attempted to maintain that in his Germanized version of The Song of the Niebelungs.
I gave the basics in a lecture in Dornach and showed how meter is connected to the interactions of the pulse and breathing look at the caesura when you study hexameter. You can see it as a harmony of the pulse, and, breathing. Today, we can’t go into metric theory.
It would still be good if we could arrange things in the eighth, ninth, and tenth grades so that the class teachers would relieve one another.
A teacher: We did that.
Dr. Steiner: So, when one begins at 8 o’clock in the tenth grade, the others would begin in the ninth and the eighth. It would not be good to change weekly. You need a longer period for each block. Our principle is to begin a block of learning and remain with it as long as possible. See if you can do that. We will also need to see that Dr. Schwebsch joins you as a fourth teacher when he comes. For the remaining classes, the plan will remain as it was. 1. Bartsch and Lachmann were more concerned with the scientific study of The Song of the Niebelungs. Simrock’s translation was published in 1827. Now Schubert can take over the whole subject of history, since he no longer has the 1b class.
Now we have history in the tenth grade. In order to teach economically, it will be important to be well-prepared. In the eighthand ninth-grade classes, do the same as before. In the tenth grade, we should return to the earliest period of history. Beginning with the earliest period, take history through the fall of free Greece, that is, beginning with the earliest Indian Period, go through the Persian, the Egypto-Chaldeaic and Greek until the end of Greek freedom, that is, until the battle of Charonea in 338 B.C.
For tenth-grade geography, describe the Earth as a morphological and physical whole. In geology, you will need to describe the Earth so that the form of the mountains is presented as a kind of cross, that is, the two rings of mountains in the east-west and north-south directions that cross one another. In morphology, discuss the forms of the continents, the creation of mountains, everything that enters into the physical realm, and then the rivers. Take up geological questions, physical characteristics, isotherms, the Earth as a magnet, the north and south magnetic poles. You need to do this in morphology. Continue on with the ocean currents, the air currents, the trade winds, and the inside of the Earth. In short, everything encompassed by the Earth as a whole.
How far have you come in mathematics?
A teacher: In algebra, exponents and roots, geometric drawing, and the computation of areas. We also did simple equations, equations with multiple unknowns, quadratic equations, and the figuring of the circumference and area of a circle.
Dr. Steiner: You could also teach them the concept of __. When you teach that, it is not important that you teach them about the theories of decimal numbers. They can learn the number __ to just one decimal place.
A teacher: We studied the number __ by looking at the perimeters of inner and outer regular polygons.
Dr. Steiner: What lines do the children know?
A teacher: Last year we studied the ellipse, hyperbola, and parabola from a geometrical perspective.
Dr. Steiner: Then, the children will need to learn the basics of plane trigonometry. I think that would be enough for now. How far did you come in descriptive geometry?
A teacher: The children learned about interpenetrating planes and surfaces. The children could certainly solve problems involving one triangle penetrated by another. They can also find the point of intersection of a line with a plane.
Dr. Steiner: Perhaps that is not necessary. You should actually begin with orthogonal projections, that is, from a point. You should go through the presentation of a plane as a plane, and not as a triangle.
You should then go on to the theory of planes and intersection of two planes and then, perhaps, to the basics of projective geometry. It is important to teach children about the concepts of duality, but you need to teach them only the most basic things.
A teacher: In trigonometry, wouldn’t it be necessary to go into logarithms?
Dr. Steiner: What? They don’t understand logarithms yet? You must do that in mathematics, it belongs there. They would know only the basic concepts of sine, cosine, and tangent, you need to say only a few sentences about that. They should learn only a couple of the relationships, for instance, sin 2a + cos 2a = 1, but they should understand that visually.
A teacher: Should the goal be to teach logarithms in the ninth grade?
Dr. Steiner: They should know enough about logarithms to be able to perform simple logarithmic computations.
Then we have physics.
A teacher: I was supposed to teach them to understand the locomotive and telephone.
Dr. Steiner: Yes, that was the goal, so that the children would have a preliminary overview of all of physics.
The teacher then describes what was done.
Dr. Steiner: With a grain of salt, it appears you did go through most of physics. That was when we should have gone through all that. It is sufficient if the children have an idea of it.
A teacher: I covered mechanics the least.
Dr. Steiner: Now is just the right time for that. You need to begin with mechanical forms [perhaps formulas]. It is best if you treat it mathematically. You need to go only far enough for the children to have a basic understanding of simple machines.
Then we have chemistry.
A teacher: The main thing we attempted to do was to present the differences between acids and bases.
Dr. Steiner: That is, of course, good. Do the children have a clear idea about the importance of salts, bases, and acids? Such things need to be done first. It is really terrible to speak about organic chemistry. We need to get away from that and expand our concepts. We could accomplish a great deal if we simply did what belongs to this year and did it by observing in detail basic and acidic substances as well as salts. We should, therefore, look at alkalines and acids, and then subsequently at the physiological processes so that the children understand them. We could begin with opposite reactions which we can see in the contrasting behavior of bee’s blood and digestive juices, since they are acidic and alkaline. In this way, we would touch upon physiological processes. You only need to work through the concepts of bitter and sour, base and acid with them. That is, take up the blood of the bee and its stomach acid because they react in opposite ways. Stomach acid is sour and the blood is bitter. Bees have these opposites of blood and stomach acid in their digestive organs. The same is true of human beings, but it is not so easy to demonstrate. It can be easily done, however, with bees in a laboratory.
How far have you come in natural history? Remember, we now have fourteen- and fifteen-year-olds.
A teacher: I have not done much there.
Dr. Steiner: Well, we will need to assign classes differently and have a fourth teacher.
A teacher: I will have at most a third of the year available to do all of this.
Dr. Steiner: You can do it in a third of a year. You could save some time if, in the future, we had two and a half hours in the morning for these three classes and compress the material somewhat. Then we could include a fourth teacher. We need to begin these three classes a little earlier and end them a little later.
A teacher: But then we will have difficulties for the other subjects because they change classrooms at the 10 o’clock recess.
Dr. Steiner: In the future we will not need as many hours of language instruction in all the grades as we have had. We do not need as much English and French in the tenth grade, that is absolutely unnecessary. We use too much time for modern languages. If we do languages so much in the lower classes as we have, we will not need to do so much in the upper grades. We can limit foreign languages somewhat in the upper grades.
It is important to consider minerals in natural history. In the tenth grade, we should also discuss the human being. We should also do mineralogy.
A teacher: What should we do about anthropology in the tenth grade?
Dr. Steiner: You will need to make the human being understandable, in a certain sense. Of course, you have to create a context in which you can make the human being as an individual understandable, so that you can later go on to ethnology. In making the individual human being understandable, you can take a great deal from Anthroposophy without getting the reputation of teaching Anthroposophy. That is the objective truth. Teach about the physical human being and its organs and functions in relation to the soul and spirit.
We also need to create a transition from shop into what is truly artistic. You have already done that with modeling, but now you can alternate that with painting. Paint with those children who are adept. We can look at the tenth-grade children as though they were in a college preparatory school, and thus we can move them into the various arts. I think we need some sort of class on aesthetics, and that is something that Dr. Schwebsch could do since he created an aesthetic connection between sculpture, painting, and music. He has done a great deal with music. In connection with musical aesthetics, you need to form a kind of sub-faculty: shop classes that move into the artistic and then into the musical, so that the aesthetic, but not musicology, is of concern. I think we should give the children as early as possible an idea of when a chair is beautiful or when a table is beautiful. You should do that in such a way as to stop all this nonsense about a chair needing to be pleasing to the eye. You should be able to feel the beauty of a chair when you sit upon it. You need to feel it. It is just the same as I said yesterday in the handwork class that the children need to be able to feel one way or another about what they have done, for instance, in cross-stitching. I think that in general, these things will all merge: handwork and shop with a feeling for art and music. Of course, this all must be done properly.
That has all been done in the most horrible manner in the college preparatory schools. Herman Grimm always complained that when people came to him, and he showed them pictures, they couldn’t tell whether a person was standing toward the front or back in the picture. People did not have the slightest idea about how to view them. The high-school students could not tell whether someone was standing toward the front or toward the back. We will see how things move in regard to instrumental music in the tenth grade.
A teacher: We need to begin it earlier.
Dr. Steiner: For the tenth grade, in any event.
A teacher: In the tenth-grade class, all of the children are doing instrumental music and I want to put them together and form a small orchestra. Most of the children belong.
Dr. Steiner: For those who are not participating, you would need to be certain that they willingly participate.
A teacher: We would certainly need two periods for the tenth grade, otherwise we could hardly do anything in choir.
Dr. Steiner: In the tenth grade, we could teach some harmony and counterpoint, so the children would want to perform. But, don’t force the issue. Wait until they come to it themselves.
In eurythmy, we need to work toward an ensemble. There are already some young men and women who can do complete ensemble forms. In music, it is important that when we begin working on something, we bring it to a certain degree of conclusion. It is better to complete three or four things in the course of the year than to simply begin all manner of things. You will soon get past the hurdle of boredom.
We must also teach children the simplest concepts of drafting. We could do that in the periods we otherwise use for languages. We need only one period per week for drafting and for surveying, also only one hour per week. We could do drafting for a half year and then surveying. In drafting, you should begin with screws, something that is not normally done. We should do that because we should begin with the character of what is material, with the poetic in drafting, and only later go onto dynamic subjects. You will certainly have enough to do in a half year without that, so teach all about the screw in drafting. You will, of course, have to guide the children so that they can draw screw forms. Work on drills and screws and worm gears.
In surveying, it will be enough if you bring the children so far along that they can determine the horizon and then simple landscapes, vineyards, orchards, and meadows, so they have an idea of how they are drawn.
Concerning spinning, you should begin with the tools, like the spinning wheel or hand loom and so forth, and first teach primitive spinning and weaving. They won’t be able to do much more than learn the simplest things and ideas. They do not need to come much further than to understand how a thread is created and how a piece of cloth is woven. You should be happy if they acquire some skill in the years. They should have some understanding of the fibers, also. And, in addition, you should teach them the historical development. To give it some spice, they should also learn about more complicated forms, since the simpler forms are no longer used.
In health class, teach simple bandaging, roughly what is needed in first aid. Let the boys do it also, tenderly and decently, and things will move along. It is not important whether they think they can do it, it is sufficient if they simply acquire an idea about it. For this, you will need one period a week for half a year.
You should see to it that the girls watch the tomboys and the boys, the more effeminate girls. The boys should not do it, they should simply become accustomed to it. They could talk a little bit among themselves about which girls do it best.
While the boys are drawing screws, the girls should talk about that in a more theoretical way. One problem with drafting is that it takes so much time to do so little. You do all kinds of things, use a great deal of time, but not much gets done. You could make the period quite exciting since the boys won’t do very much otherwise. There is certainly a lot we could do in this period of life to make things more exciting. I have noticed that they are a little bit sleepy, the boys and girls.
Tenth-grade French: Do literature and culture. I would do it by beginning with the more modern and going backward to older things, that is, in reverse. What can the children do in French?
A teacher: Simple conversation.
Dr. Steiner: They could read Le Cid. The children should begin to have some concept of classical French poetry. Do Molière later. I would prefer that you do not rush from one thing to another. If you like Le Cid, then do all of it. We can add other things during the year.
A teacher: What should I do in English? I have covered all of the background information about the text.
Dr. Steiner: Continue with that. Then see if the children can freely write a paragraph. There are some students in the language class who think they can do it better than the teacher. That is easy to see. Foreign language teachers are seldom accepted if they are not foreigners and speak with an accent. You need to pay a little attention here. This is a difficult problem, but we will need to stick with the principle that things will come with time.
When we do not teach efficiently, we burden the students. We should avoid wasting time for that reason. We should not do everything as though we had an endless amount of time. It is apparent that we too often assume we have an endless amount of time.
A teacher asks if he should do Dickens.
Dr. Steiner: Our plans are good enough. Now we have only Latin and Greek. What can the children do there?
A teacher: Ovid, without always translating.
Dr. Steiner: Continue that. They need to be able to understand at least simple things in Greek.
We should give as much Latin and Greek as we can. It is not so important that we use the encapsulated methods used at the college preparatory schools. That is nonsense. We should give somewhat more emphasis to Latin and Greek and somewhat less to modern languages. In the lower grades, we need to come so far that later we do not need to use so much time. Our job is to make it clear to as many students as possible that it is something beautiful. I cannot understand why more boys do not want to learn it. Use more time in the upper grades for Latin and Greek.
A teacher makes a remark.
Dr. Steiner: Such problems come up. If we add stenography to our curriculum, we need to start now.
A teacher: Most of them already do it.
Dr. Steiner: That doesn’t concern us. We need to ask ourselves if we should use these two periods a week to teach stenography in the tenth grade and, then, which system. Gabelsberger? The boundary for that is here. Gabelsberger predominates here and in Bavaria also. I think the Gabelsberger method would do the least damage. If only stenography had never been created! But now that it exists, people cannot live without it, just like the telephone. Well, Gabelsberger it is. Two periods of stenography.
We can no longer address the girls in the tenth grade with the informal “you.” It’s bad enough when a teacher is not old enough.
Evening lectures: One or two hours for those who have completed the eighth or ninth grades and have left the school. The children will learn the practical things they need to know outside. It would be good for the health of the children, though, if they were taught about aesthetics and art and literary history.
In the independent religious instruction, we have not yet taught the children the Psalms. The ten-year-olds could understand the Psalms. Discuss everything in the Psalms. Give a kind of inner contemplation of the Psalms so you can crown it by singing them.
A teacher: What should I do now? I am getting past fairy tales.
Dr. Steiner: Use the symbolism that comes from the material, for instance, the meaning of the festivals. There is so much information in the lectures about Christmas, Easter, and Whitsun. You could discuss most of what those lectures contain. If you present it properly, it would be quite good for children, particularly at that age. Try to stay connected with the times of the festivals. You could begin a little earlier and end a little later, though. Spend four weeks on Christmas.
A teacher: Could we use Michelangelo’s statues when we do the prophets?
Dr. Steiner: Yes, that is possible.
A teacher: Should we work from the sculptural perspective?
Dr. Steiner: It would be good to know how far you have come, and how you would continue.
Transition to consideration of the Psalms. Then take up the Laocoön group, so that the tragic and lofty are expressed. It is the moment of death.
A teacher: Can I continue teaching religion in the same way in the third and fourth grades?
Dr. Steiner: You should not believe you can leave out Christ.
A teacher: I have done Old Testament history.
Dr. Steiner: Do not limit yourself to Old Testament history.
A teacher: How should I begin with the first grade?
Dr. Steiner: In the past, we have always tried to begin with natural phenomena. That was even the theme of the lower grades. Then, we slowly went on to stories and to tales we made up. From that, we went on to the Gospels and created scenes from the Gospel of St. John. We began with a kind of natural religion. It is important that we create a religious feeling in the children in a natural way by connecting all things together.
Comments are made about a religion teacher’s teaching methods. He was unable to keep the children under control, so they just walked around in class.
Dr. Steiner: That cannot occur again. That is a tremendous setback. Things certainly cannot be the way they were in Haubinda. Some of the students were lying about on the floor and stretching their legs up into the air, others were lying on the window sill, and still others on the tables. None of them sat in their chairs properly. A short story by Keller was read aloud, but there was no hint of a religious mood. That was in 1903.
A teacher: We have done Jean Paul in the ninth grade. We were also to do Herman Grimm. What should we read in the eighth grade?
Dr. Steiner: Also Herman Grimm.
A teacher: I am beginning with Jean Paul. You suggested doing the chapter on humor.
Dr. Steiner: You have to do the whole thing, including the historical context and literary history.
A teacher: What should I read in seventh-grade French class? I chose poetry.
Dr. Steiner: Read stories, La Fontaine.
A teacher asks about anthropology in the fourth grade.
Dr. Steiner: You should do what is appropriate there. In the fourth grade, you will have to remain more with external things. That is possible in nearly every class. The skeleton is, of course, the most abstract thing. I would not consider it for itself, but include it with the entirety of the human being. I would not handle the skeleton by itself, even in the tenth grade. I would begin more with the picture of the whole human being. The way Dr. von Heydebrand did it was good. You should try to make a plausible group of ideas about the human being.
A handwork teacher: Should we try to teach the new children knitting, or could we simply integrate them into the regular classwork?
Dr. Steiner: It would be best to have them learn to knit first, and then have them do the same thing as the rest of the class.
A teacher: Is it best to study commerce and finances in connection with mathematics?
Dr. Steiner: Yes, do it with mathematics, and also in other areas. A question is asked about business writing.
Dr. Steiner: I recently asked that The Coming Day do something and received the reply yesterday. I told them I could not accept it as it was. I have to be able to understand what happened. Usually you can’t tell what happened. In the first case, the address was incorrect, and secondly, instead of what I wanted to know, namely, if something had been moved to a different location, other things were included. The third thing it included was something that did not interest me at all, namely, the charges they had incurred. I could not find out what I wanted to know, namely, whether the task was done, from what was written in the reply. A different address was given. That comes from a superficiality because people do not believe things need to be exact.
You only need to say what happened. You should try to understand the course of a business relationship, and then write from that perspective. That can best be done in a critical way. You should try to probe, to get behind all this gibberish, and see if you can’t bring some style into it.
Concerning business writing: If you need an expert opinion about something, then that opinion is a business report. Information of various sorts, sales reports and so forth, those are all business reports. It is not so terribly bad if you do something wrong. Someone who can do something will find their way better than someone who can do nothing. Those who do things are the ones who most often cannot do them.
Using simple expressions is better than normal “business style.” Some of the things I have experienced myself, I could not repeat here, they were so terrible. It is really not so bad if you simply summarize the situation and repeat it. Everyone can understand that. This is not connected with business alone. You need only read some legal opinion or legal judgment. I once read that a railway is a straight or curving means of movement on a plane or a number of planes with greater or lesser degree of elevation from a particular goal, and so forth. It was sixteen lines.
When you create your lessons, always consider how you can draw them out of the nature of the children.
Be careful when a school inspector comes that he does not leave with his questions unanswered. He may ask questions in such a way that the children cannot answer them. We should work so that the children can handle even the most surprising questions. We certainly want to hold good to what our official plan is, namely, that the children know what they might be asked at the end of the 3rd and sixth grades without preparing them for that specifically. We certainly do not want to work like those teachers do who drill the children about specific questions. The school inspector comes and asks a child if he believes in God. “I believe in God.” The inspector then asks if he believes in Jesus Christ. “No. The one who believes in Jesus Christ sits behind me.” That must not happen here.
We should also be careful that the class teachers do not enter the classroom too late. That is one of the main reasons why the children get into such an uproar, namely, that they are left to themselves because the teacher is not there.
Dr. Steiner: (Speaking to a teacher whose class is to be divided) You should try to make the division yourself. It’s best, since you know the children, that you try to do what is best according to your feeling. Otherwise, you could simply take the children who have been here the longest, and the new teacher would take the new children.
A comment concerning the student library.
Dr. Steiner: Do Grillparzer, Hamerling, and Aspasia as late as possible. Do König von Sion as soon as you have done history. You can let them read Ahasver and Lessing at fifteen. Recently, you could have had them read the Zerbrochenen Krug (The broken pitcher). You don’t need to emphasize the Prussian dramas. You could have them read Shakespeare in English. Your goal in such things should be to have them read such things as Shakespeare in the language in which they were written. When the children are so old that they normally do not learn a new language, they should read things in translation, things that are as important as Shakespeare is for English. You should not have the children read Racine and Corneille in German except when they can’t read it in French. Include Fercher von Steinwand and also the twenty-four volume history by Johannes Müller. They should become accustomed to that style. You can also include other things for the children. Fairy tales and mysteries about good and evil are good for children, but you cannot give them the whole book.
We need to consider the faculty. We need a new teacher, and Dr. Plinke might be good. It would be good — you will excuse me — if we alternate, man, woman; man, woman, as otherwise this school will become too feminine.
A teacher is suggested.
Dr. Steiner: He is only “half grown” and will still grow. Isn’t it true that we have men and women equally?
A teacher: There are more men.
Dr. Steiner: I am certainly in favor of equality, but not in a forced way. That is also dangerous. We should have Miss Michels come as a gardener. We could telegraph her.
A comment about the opening ceremony on the coming Saturday is made.
Dr. Steiner: I could speak first, and then all the teachers. I think we should take all the class teachers beginning with the higher grades downward, one after another, and then representatives of the different subjects. We could begin with the top, that is, with the 10th grade. The subject teachers should also speak. We could present the 10th, 9th, and 8th-grade teachers, then the eurythmy, music, foreign language, handwork and shop teachers. We should invite somebody from the ministry, though I don’t think he will come. But, that is another question. Others will also be here.
Someone asks what they should say.
Dr. Steiner: You will find that your goals and intentions for your class at the beginning of the school year fill you with inspiration. Perhaps I should say more about what you should leave out. Everyone is thinking about their goals and intentions. I don’t think it would be proper for me to tell you what to say. It is too bad we cannot do something original in eurythmy, that would certainly be a nice thing to do. The ceremony should be very dignified. It is a problem that we have to hold it in the hall in the botanical gardens. It is a problem that we cannot have the ceremony here. We could not even fit all the children in here, let alone the other people. They could only stand. The faculty should do something at the beginning of school. We will divide the children into the 1st through sixth grades, and seventh through tenth. We’ll have to do that next year.