Faculty Meetings with Rudolf Steiner
14 January 1922, Stuttgart
Dr. Steiner: I would like to briefly handle the questions that are burdening you. That is why I have called you together today. Are there any further questions?
A teacher: The school inspector has made an appointment for February. He would like to have a report on the teaching.
Dr. Steiner: You should keep the report as brief as possible. Certainly do not write a book, but something more like your lesson plans, containing only notes like, “binomial theorem” or “permutations.” Keep strictly to the subject.
You need to assume that such an official would view any diversion as incorrect, and that additional remarks would only make him angry. You need to assume that he has only a small amount of capacity within his soul. That is something officials cannot have due to their position. If you provide him with a long discourse that is different from the normal elementary school curriculum, you will be beating him over the head. We should never believe we could ever satisfy such people, really. Our position in regard to such people should be that we simply tell them that we do such and such. There is no reason to hope there will be any sort of insight from that side. There is more reason for hope in anyone other than a professional educator. It is better to tell how far you are, and what you have done, and leave out any other remarks.
A teacher: N.G. would like to attend school only for a half day and to use the remainder of the day to work on mechanical drawing.
Dr. Steiner: He is in the tenth grade. Of course, something of that sort could not be considered in the lower eight grades, but beginning only with the ninth grade. In such cases, we could look into the question of whether we accept part-time students who would only attend a few periods. That might be possible. He would, of course, not be a regular student, but only an auditor. We might even be able to see this as a solution to a more general problem. Those in a similar situation could attend the school as auditors.
A teacher: Should we put T.H. in the remedial class and have him attend the other subjects afterward?
Dr. Steiner: Put him in the remedial class, but then send him home after ten o’clock.
A teacher: The Independent Youth Group has asked about a pedagogical course in Jena over Easter.
Dr. Steiner: That depends upon what you want, and what you can do. Which of you in the faculty would and could do something? It would be good if we could propagate what we can refer to as “the Waldorf School Idea” and, in particular, if it would take root among younger people. It would be a good idea if the Waldorf School idea could become more widespread, so that people would see the Waldorf School as something special, something great.
A teacher: Wouldn’t it be better if we began something?
Dr. Steiner: That’s true, and if you can create something independent and win over youth for it, that would certainly be preferable. Without winning over youth, there is not much we can accomplish in the area of pedagogy. We need to win over youth, especially those in the youth movement. On the other hand, I have no doubt that if the youth movement in Jena approaches the Waldorf faculty, you would not be any less independent than if you were to begin it yourselves. What is important is what you do, and how you present yourselves. I think you could accomplish a great deal with such things.I do not know if I can participate since, if this project really happens, it will be just at the time I am in England. Miss Cross wants to bring her school into our movement. If it is possible, it is certainly something quite important, but it seems to me to be something that would be difficult to do. If some of the people who participated in the Christmas Course in Dornach in 1921 were employed there as teachers, perhaps we could have an actual beginning.
I think that in something like that movement, we should not be overly concerned about the direction. Perhaps you know the wellknown anecdote about Bismarck. We could also apply it, with some reservations, to the Waldorf School movement. Here I am referring to the story about how Bismarck was invited to certain royal festivities simply because of his official position. As a not very high-born country squire, he could not sit at the high table, [but as High Chancellor, he sat with the Crown Prince]. But, when Mrs. Bismarck [who was a commoner] went along, members of the royal court complained that the Bismarcks should not sit up front at the high table. They went so far as to send the ceremonial master to Bismarck, but nothing could be done. Bismarck’s official position was such that he was entitled to sit closer, but nothing could be done about Mrs. Bismarck. Bismarck then said, “Well, you know, my wife sits where I sit, and you can seat me wherever you want. Wherever I sit is always the highest position.” I think that is similar to our own case. What is important is what we do. Is there anything more to say about individual students or classes?
A teacher asks about L.R. in the fourth grade. He had expressed some suicidal thoughts.
Dr. Steiner: He would be ripe for the remedial class, but let’s leave him in your class until I have seen him.
A teacher: The health of one of the first grade classes is very poor.
Dr. Steiner: In this class are the first children born during the war. However, since the children were simply divided according to the alphabet and the other first grade class is healthier, external circumstances could not be the only cause of the poor health in the class. The problem is in the humidity in the classroom and the heating.
A teacher: There are bad family situations.
Dr. Steiner: Among the children there are the most unfortunate circumstances, and these are then transmitted on to the others. There is not much we can change. However, we could improve the heating. Central heating would be best. We should try to do that. That is something we must do as part of the new construction.
A teacher speaks about D.M. in seventh-grade Latin class.
Dr. Steiner: You certainly accomplished a great deal with those you had today in Latin. You went through the entire reading from the beginning. That is quite good. They learned a relatively large amount. Who is this D.M.?
A teacher says something about the student.
Dr. Steiner: That’s the boy on the left toward the back. Now I remember.
A teacher: He likes to write with Greek letters, but doesn’t know what they mean.
Dr. Steiner: You should try to bring him away from that through something artistic. For instance, you could have him draw a top in a number of colors, red, orange, yellow, green, all seven. Then have him try to blend red into this so that he would have to use his intellect in connection with art. It is difficult to spend so much time with one boy, but you could also try to have him divide things into, say, subject, verb and object, and so forth, that can be exchanged with one another. In other words, have him do something that brings the intellect and art together. That might help. You could occupy him with such things.
A teacher: I am trying it with Amos Comenius.
Dr. Steiner: That is a good idea. You need to make it quite visible, so that both his intelligence and perception unite in it.
A teacher: I have completed La Fontaine’s Tales in the seventh grade. Some of them are rather suspect morally.
Dr. Steiner: Make a joke about that. You need to treat them as stories.
A teacher: It appears to me that La Fontaine is lacking in humor.
Dr. Steiner: You must create the humor from yourself, but, in certain situations, you can just as easily create a great deal of misunderstandings. What is important is that you attempt to be one with him. When you are done with him, I would undertake one of the major prose works. You could certainly do Mignet with those children.
A teacher: Should we do The Tempest after A Christmas Carol? Another teacher: I did The Tempest with each child taking a role.
Dr. Steiner: That is a real pedagogical problem. It depends upon how you do it. The children have the material, but they experience nothing more. On the other hand, this may be the best way of bringing them into the spirit of the language.
A teacher: I wanted to read Jules Verne with my ninth grade.
Dr. Steiner: I have nothing against Jules Verne if you treat him in such a way that the children do not become silly about it. But, you can certainly do it.
A teacher: Do you recommend that we do some short stories?
Dr. Steiner: That’s good for thirteen- or fourteen-year-olds. It is also what I meant when I mentioned Mignet. In English and French, you need to find some characteristic pieces to read.
A teacher: For economic reasons, we may need to use the school editions.
Dr. Steiner: You can obtain the material wherever you want. The main thing is that each student has their own book. Often, the school texts are simply poison for children. What is in the lower grade school books is often just terrible.
A teacher: K. was here for two years, and now he is leaving with very little knowledge. What kind of report should I give him?
Dr. Steiner: Write the truth in his report. Give the exact reasons why he is lagging behind. You can write all of that in it. You cannot keep him here. One day, the light will go on for him.
A teacher: You gave Biblical stories as the story material for the third grade. I don’t know how I should do that.
Dr. Steiner: Look at one of the older Catholic editions of the Bible. You can see there how to tell the stories. They are very well done, but of course you will have to do it still better. Here you have the opportunity to improve upon the terrible material in Luther’s translation. The best would be to use the Catholic translation of the Bible. In addition, I would recommend that you work somewhat with the translations before Luther’s, so that you can get past all of those myths about Luther’s Bible translation. There is something really wrong about all the laurels Luther has earned regarding the formation of the German language. That lies deep in the feeling of middle European people. If you go back to the earlier Bible translations and look at longer passages, you will see how wonderful they are in comparison to Luther’s translation which, actually, in regard to the development of the German language, held it back.
There is an edition of the Bible for students, the Schuster Bible. You can get it anywhere there is a Catholic majority. Before the story of Creation, you should begin with the fall of the angel. The Catholic Bible begins with the fall of the angel and only afterward with the creation of the world. That is quite beautiful, simple, and plain storytelling.
A teacher asks about a boy in the seventh grade who has amyotrophia (muscular atrophy).
Dr. Steiner: Treat him with hypophysis cerebri.
There is a question about an assistant for music class.
Dr. Steiner: We have only a few good musicians, but nevertheless, we do have some. I will keep my eye open on my trip.
Dr. Steiner speaks with Dr. Schwebsch about the problem of music and refers him to Eduard Hanslick’s book, Vom Musikalisch-Schönen and also an article by Robert Zimmermann about the aesthetics of music.
A question is asked about a gymnastics teacher.
Dr. Steiner: I think we need to be very careful about who we choose to teach gymnastics. It is important that we place gymnastics upon a broader foundation, so that it can be done in a more reasonable way. We need to find someone who is interested in that.
In the Christmas course in Dornach I showed how the soul slowly takes over the entire organism. That is something we need to take into account. I want to have this course printed as soon as possible, for there is considerable information about such questions. I had not previously had an opportunity to discuss them so exactly and in so much detail, that is, the formation of the organism, so that gymnastics teachers could actually understand them. I will look into this question further.