Faculty Meetings with Rudolf Steiner
4 October 1922, Stuttgart
Dr. Steiner: I have called you together to discuss the recent situation that occupies you so much. Otherwise we could have waited a few days. It seems important to me that we do not discuss such things as a specific case. We cannot do that, but instead we need to treat all of these things in this difficult time for us in connection with the anthroposophical movement. We should be careful that it is not used against the anthroposophical movement. We are actually sitting in a glass house and should avoid all such things that can lead to all kinds of opposition to the anthroposophical movement. What is now important is that we gain some clarity about what occurred and how we should judge it.
A group of students from the 9th, 10th, and 11th grades had been involved in some lying, thefts, and drunkenness. One of the students had given another student some injections and attempted to hypnotize her. Upon discovery of what had been occurring, the faculty had discussed the situation with Dr. Steiner in Dornach by telephone. The faculty then questioned the students in detail and sent Dr. Steiner a detailed report. The students involved were temporarily suspended from school.
Dr. Steiner asks about the age of each of the students involved, about which class they were in and about how long they had been in the school. He also asks about the parents and the home environment.
Dr. Steiner: When was the first time that something was said against these children? How did you discover what had been happening?
A teacher: Through the business with the hypnotizing by G.S. One student wanted to speak with me alone and told me that there were things that occurred in S.’s house that we should know about.
Dr. Steiner: In your opinion, had G.S. ever hypnotized anyone?
A teacher: No, at least not completely, although he has often attempted it with various students.
Dr. Steiner: We can hardly assume that if he did not exercise some unfavorable influence, that he could have caused any real harm with those he attempted to hypnotize. There was certainly moral damage, but he did not do things that would cause real damage. In any event, there is not much to be done with this whole hypnotizing business. I had the impression from the report that this whole thing was simply a bunch of dumb tricks that got out of hand due to G.S.’s craziness. Does anybody know anything about this hypnotizing that is more serious?
A detailed report is given about G.S. and his home situation. Among other things, one teacher reports that the boy has been interested in such things since he was ten years old and that his father has some books about such matters. The boy likes to experiment and has made a small laboratory.
Dr. Steiner: Other than the fact that he was very diligent, is there nothing more to say about how G.S. is at school?
A teacher: I used to be quite satisfied with him, but he has slacked off in the last three or four months.
Dr. Steiner: To the extent that G.S. is concerned, the business with the injections seems to be like that of the hypnotizing. We should now take a look at how things are with H.B. From all that I have read, he seems to be a real gang leader and is behind a number of things. It also appears that he was the main motivator in this socalled club. Were you satisfied with him here at school?
A teacher: He did not participate with much interest. He avoided conflicts, but was not really with things.
There is then a detailed discussion about the student.
Dr. Steiner: What does N.G. say to all this? Why was he readmitted to school after he had already left?
A number of teachers report.
Dr. Steiner: Now there is one other thing I would like to know. I had asked Mr. J. about some report or another and he told me about an evening where there was a discussion between the students and teachers. How is it that a student association has a chairman and the teachers met with them and asked the student president to speak? I nearly fell off my chair.
There is a discussion about this.
Dr. Steiner: Now N.G., O.R., U.A., and F.S. have been suspended because they are cutting school. H.B. and S.K. were suspended because of their black-market activities, and G.S. has been expelled. How is it possible that there has been so little contact with the students in these upper grades recently? The lack of contact was what caused these classes to come to me in May. What is happening here?
The discussion I had with them showed me that the teachers no longer had any contact, particularly with the 10th grade. Why is that? Undoubtedly, there is a considerable difference between these classes and the lower grades where there has always been a strong contact between the class teacher and the children. There is a significant difference in the way that the relationship developed toward these 9th- and 10th-grade classes. There is no doubt that these classes have gotten out of the control of the faculty. That evening discussion did not lead to the faculty gaining control over the children. Instead, it is quite clear that the students have taken the helm. To have such discussions!
A number of teachers report about the discussions between the students and faculty.
Dr. Steiner: It must have begun somewhere. Mr. S. has left. Somewhere, there must be a beginning.
The difficulty is that there is a whole group of students that we do not need here at school, but if we throw them out, then the same sort of thing will happen as did earlier. The whole situation will result in a new affair connected with the anthroposophical movement. Of course, the thing with N.G. is not so easy. He must have known that old G. was planning some activities against the anthroposophical movement. He is not really so bright, but he is planning something nevertheless, and that should have been a warning for us to be cautious with regard to N.G. It is certainly a difficult thing for the other students to reject the student association.
N.G. is a rascal, the result of an unbelievable family life. There are a number of cases where the home situation is not good, but this particular situation is one of the worse excesses to be seen in modern social life. He grew up in that and is now psychopathic, totally sick. It is really difficult to decide which one is worse, F.S. or N.G.
I have to admit that it is really a problem that these children did not find it possible to gain a natural connection to the faculty. They had no trust in the faculty. I certainly need to say that in fact these children were not filled with any trust in the faculty.
You will seldom find a boy who is inwardly so torn apart as N.G. is, in spite of the fact that there are today so many children who are torn apart. What you have told me about are simply stupid, boyish tricks, and you certainly know that there are such boys in every school. However, there are certain inner or soul things here but what you have told me about today belongs in the category of things that occur in every school.
There appears to be a misunderstanding of the situation here. You have told me that N.G. and G.S., and perhaps some of the others, have been impertinent and that they asked how it is that people say that there is no anthroposophy in the instruction. How did you understand that? What did you think about all those questions?
A teacher: When N.G. asked about those things, I had the feeling that he wanted to know the truth, but that he also wanted to trip us up.
Dr. Steiner: The situation with N.G. is such that he is now grown up. At the time when he was a small child and learning to speak, he did not hear one true word in his family. His mother is a complete lie, just as his father is. They were totally contradictory, so that N.G. one day when he was quite young, perhaps only seven or eight years old, asked himself, “What is the world, then? My father, who is such a terrible boor, still made it through graduate school. How is that possible?” Now, N.G. is in the school where he also found that all the teachers are boors. He came here and said to himself that it is said that the teachers here at the Waldorf School are not boors, but I want to see for myself if they are boors or not. Everybody told him time and again that there is no Anthroposophy in the instruction. But Anthroposophy is just what he wanted. It would have been just the thing for him as he sought the opportunity to learn about Anthroposophy. He wanted to know why everyone withheld that and he perceived it as an untruth. He then soon left and worked to earn money.
After a long time, N.G. came to me and said, “I don’t know what I should do. I had a great hope that I would become a better human being when I went to the Waldorf School. I rode my bicycle over to Dornach and had a look at the building there. That building made me into a better human being, but I am not getting anywhere. I do not see any difference between good and evil and I see no reason why I should be good now. Why should I not be a person who is intent upon destroying everything?” Now recently since he returned again, something has happened to the boy. Either we should not have accepted him again, or he should have been able to gain some trust in the faculty. He is in a terrible position. Think about what kind of trophy that is for people who gather data against the anthroposophical movement.
I have to admit that as I learned of the situation I thought of it as being one situation at school like many others. You would have to really look for schools where such things do not come up. It is also easy for other schools to cope with such things. For us it is not so easy because we have to really be aware of how the anthroposophical movement is affected by such things. We thus have the choice between removing the student from the school with all justification and publicly, or of coping with such cases. The opinion that the world has about us in such cases needs to come from us.
We need to stop turning people away because of the difficulties they bring, since they become our enemies. A reason for expelling a student is really something quite different from what we now have before us. There is not much that we can do with the information we now have. The things that G.S. has done were really just stupid, boyish pranks and lead to the situation where people could ask what kind of a school this is that would allow the children so much time that they could get drunk.
A teacher: The children have forty-four hours of school per week.
Dr. Steiner: If you look at what you have presented, it would appear as though the children had no time at all to come to school. It is not only the fact that the children do not have any feeling that they are at school, it is also the fact that they do not feel that they are at a school where they cannot do such things.
I think that this is something you should have noticed. Here in the report, you state how G.S. formed a detective club over Christmas. This all occurred outside the school, but was there no effect upon the school? You should certainly be able to notice when there is a student of the sort who would form a detective club.
Now people can say that the children have been thrown out. I was in the 10th and 11th grade classes today, and I think they are quite well-behaved. You should be able to do anything with them.
A teacher: It is now really enjoyable to work with the class.
Dr. Steiner: The 11th-grade class is very upright and you should be able to do anything with them. To what extent has the situation with these children who have left affected the remainder of the class?
A teacher: They are all terribly happy about it.
Dr. Steiner: If you were to ask them, what would they say?
A teacher: They would say that they are happy the others are gone.
Dr. Steiner: The impression I have from all the questioning is that these delinquents did nothing more during the questioning than to lie out of both sides of their mouths, and certainly not much can result from that. It was rather unpleasant for me today to hear the discussion that someone had with one N.G.’s school comrades. What was said points to things that occurred last Christmas. I need to ask if you noticed nothing about all the things that this schoolgirl said.
It is really difficult to find a way to rectify things in this case. What would you do if in six months time one of those members of that clique of clerics were to handle H.B.’s case in the following way? H.B. is an upright student until he went to the Waldorf School. Afterward, he was also quite honorable. It took three years until he began his black-market activities. It is quite clear in this instance that it was not immediately possible to make such an honorable student into something so bad. It took three years of Waldorf School indoctrination — what would you say if that were to be said?
A teacher: I would see no possibility of working with such people in the school.
Dr. Steiner: What was actually the cause of all this? The reason is that contact was lost with the boys and girls. I had thought that after I spoke so seriously and that in some way we should again try to accept N.G. into the school, that a connection would then form with him. There must be some reason that we lost the boy. N.G. has been at school for two years.
A teacher: We could never find the proper relationship to him. I have often had the impression that we place ourselves above the children and not alongside of them.
Dr. Steiner: Why do you say that you have placed yourself above the children? What should have happened is that the children placed you above themselves. That is how things should be. The children should place you above them as a matter of course. That is the only possible proper relationship as then there will no longer be any discussions in which the children tell you that they reject the whole school.
We cannot glue things together again. We must nevertheless remove eight of the children. We cannot mend things in any other way. Nothing else can be done. We need to be able to justify the situation and represent it in such a way that it cannot be used against us. We must have the possibility of treating the situation in such a way that we can justify that we have expelled these eight children. It is really very difficult to cope with this situation. We need some firm ground under our feet, but what is important is that people hear how the situation is with the remainder of the class.
A teacher: The experience has been a relief and a freeing for the children in the 11th grade.
Dr. Steiner: Then we can handle it in the following way. We must come to a decision in the next few days. Tomorrow morning I will have a look at the 11th-grade class and then the tenth. The whole thing is so frustrating. It’s a dead end. It was a major mistake that the situation was handled by individuals. It should have been done with groups. I told that to Mr. R. and in spite of it I received this interrogation report. Just look at this report about S.H. Four-and-a-half pages long. Look at the report and you will see that it was just a joke for her. She said things and then laughed behind her hand. I do not think that she thought for one moment that the teachers stand above her. I need to look at the 10th- and 11th-grade classes.
A teacher: Did I understand you properly that it would be less of a blemish were we to keep the children?
Dr. Steiner: You cannot keep the children, but how can we get out of this? We cannot simply decide to expel them if we have no reasons for doing so. We need to find a reason. There must be some way of stopping a repetition of this. There must be some way of not allowing the children in the upper grades to get out of the faculty’s control, but that has now happened. If there is no will to keep the children under control, then they will get out of our control, especially due to the advantages of our methods. The disadvantage of those methods is that the children become too clever. Laziness occurs in other schools also, but with the understanding common among the students and teachers in those schools, this loss of control does not occur there. The real error lies in the way you have held discussions.
We need to protect ourselves from those people who seek every opportunity — and you cannot imagine how much attention is paid by them — to rid the world of the anthroposophical movement. We need to be able to counter that by avoiding such things in the future. I am not totally convinced that they will not recur. I can only believe that the boys and girls by the time they reach the age of fifteen or sixteen will time and again slip out of the teachers’ hands. We need to undertake something that will give a breath of life throughout the instruction. I don’t want to be preaching, but a breath of life must go through the teaching and into the classes. There is still some breath of life in the lower grades and it could also be in the upper grades. Basically, we have really quite good students here. These two classes made a quite good impression upon me. It is very frustrating when no one understands that the whole thing should be coming from another impulse. It should be impossible that students come to you and say that they reject the whole school. There needs to be some will to change such things.
A teacher: Couldn’t you say some more about that? We are confronted here with our own lack of ability.
Dr. Steiner: There is no will. If you were to concentrate your entire will upon this matter, then things would go differently. From an external perspective, there is a noticeable difference between the lower and upper grade classes. In the lower classes, what occurred with Miss U. occurs often and the children make quite a spectacle so you do not have the feeling that they are asleep. That was really a quite noteworthy example in your class. In the upper grades, the class is asleep. They don’t know anything, not even the simplest things. There was not one person there who knew that there had been the crusades. I understand something different with the idea of being awake. They had no idea at all about how the Crusades began.
We need to have a different kind of will. At a certain point in time, we come out of the proper understanding of the class and fall into simply lecturing. We leave the living connections behind.
Things would have been more understandable had you brought up Jakob Böhme today. You should not bring up so many details that one covers up the other. At 10:00 o’clock there was a whole lot of dictation and questioning. You need to round it out to form a picture and it is the picture that should remain. Had you added Jakob Böhme to everything else today, then they would certainly have been confused. Why is it that when we have three hours one after the other, what is done in the second hour wipes out what was done in the first? In history, you could do an hour and a half of something new and then illuminate it through other things the children have already learned. We need to develop the will to keep the children lively, so that they will have something from all these things when they learn them. That is something that we need to achieve, since otherwise we cannot dare to keep these higher grades. I am not saying all of this simply to complain. The fact is that the class is asleep.