Faculty Meetings with Rudolf Steiner
30 March 1923, Stuttgart
This meeting took place following the Pedagogical Conference.
Dr. Steiner: The first thing I would like to say is that we can be deeply satisfied when we look back over the previous years. The conference was extremely satisfying. The way the Waldorf School was described, the way the various subjects were presented, the way individual speakers gave their presentations, made the conference very good both inwardly and outwardly. The conference most certainly made a great impression upon the visitors. We will undoubtedly overcome the difficulties we confront, particularly the financial difficulties, through presenting such conferences, if we can just hold out long enough to reach as many people as possible.
We certainly need to be thankful to all those who worked to make the conference such an extraordinary success. We need to recognize the significant efforts you made for the conference in spite of all the work you have to do in the school during the year. I only hope that you are not too tired to make this new school year just as good as the ending of the last. You can, of course, assume I fully support everything you have done. I particularly want to thank the people who organized the conference for their enormous work. I think the entire faculty needs to be very thankful to those individuals.
There are two things I believe are important to say now. I want to mention them to the extent that they are appropriate within the faculty. The first concerns general anthroposophical activities, and the second relates to what I believe may be important for future conferences. Nevertheless, I want to expressly emphasize that this past conference was extraordinarily successful.
The first thing I would like to say is that if we want future conferences to be successful, we will need to really understand what is going on in Stuttgart when such a conference is held. In particular, we will need to understand what happens within the Anthroposophical Society itself. If we do not understand the environment in which we live, we will run a certain risk. The Waldorf School did not create this difficult situation, but in the future we must see that the school reaches an understanding with the Society so that if the majority of participants at our next conference are anthroposophists, they will not be in the position of having no opportunity to hear anything specifically anthroposophic. That is, we must avoid having people travel a long distance to a conference where nothing is said about Anthroposophy. This completely ignores the anthroposophical movement as such. That situation clearly formed the background and significantly affected the whole conference, which was itself the result of enormous effort and sacrifice. It would, of course, have been an enormous advantage had someone asked for a specifically anthroposophical session during the conference.
Of course, the anthroposophical committee (actually, there are two) gave no thought to the fact that such meetings would be entirely appropriate, even though they knew a large number of anthroposophists would be here. You should have no illusions about that. A large number of people came with the justifiable expectation of meetings more connected with anthroposophy, an expectation that would be unjustifiable if the conference did not have an anthroposophic background.
You will find genuine supporters for the Waldorf School only among people who understand anthroposophy. You should not expect that the impressions of the moment will have any lasting effect on others or that this conference will not give rise to opposition, which will then be unloaded on me. Even the most wonderful conference, if we forget such things, will give rise to opposition that will be unloaded on me. Things will be better in such cases if we are careful to create an understanding within the Anthroposophical Society. Then we could show that anthroposophy exists within the school, but because of its nature, anthroposophy does not tend to turn what it creates into something specifically anthroposophical. Anthroposophy exists to make something more generally human.
Dr. Schubert emphasized that very well. If you create wonderful rules and find them to be very valuable, but then put them over a hole, you will soon find that those rules no longer exist. That is what we do not consider. We create the most beautiful things, but they exist without any foundation. The foundation must be the anthroposophical movement. We are slowly coming to the same place as the old Austrian empire when the various realms disintegrated and the empire no longer existed. We are faced with the absurdity that there are two newsletters containing absolutely nothing. We face the danger of the Anthroposophical Society disintegrating into a number of individual movements. We face the danger that we will have the Waldorf School, The Coming Day, and so forth, but no longer an Anthroposophical Society. In that situation, there will no longer be any interest for our movement as a whole.
We can be polite to school officials, but you should not expect any success through them. If you believe they can be a source of our success, you are creating an illusion for yourself. That is just the problem, we create illusions. That is something we should not do, or else one day we will find the most beautiful forces poised over a hole. That is something we must avoid, something we must seriously consider. We should not limit the future of the whole movement by allowing the brilliance of such a conference to blind us.
I would also like to mention that in the future we must avoid emphasizing the negative and critical aspects too strongly. The first mention will not have much influence because the people who heard it will soon forget it unless opposition was lying dormant in their souls. That negative aspect existed in even the best lectures, and is something we must significantly reduce. I am certainly not against hitting people with a sledgehammer, but we should avoid being negative. Dr. N.’s lecture was filled with negative examples. Such things eat away at people if they hear them repeatedly. You spoke about experience in history, but then argued horribly against documents in connection with Herman Grimm. Grimm often stressed that we can speak about history only to the extent we have material about it. If you tell people they should base history upon inner experience and ignore documents, they will object, saying, “What does this Dr. N. know about history? He never even studied it!” Then, what you said simply collapses. (Speaking to another teacher) On the next day, you had to show that you do use documents.
In such cases, we certainly need to place documents in the proper light. You can tell people only that we must first illuminate every document. The sun that sheds light on a document cannot come from the documents themselves. If you throw the baby out with the bathwater, you give people new points of attack at each step. Without documents, you cannot do the least thing in history. You can do nothing unless you develop a counterpoint and show that each document has its proper value only when properly illuminated. Such negative situations are enormously detrimental because they continue to grow. It was quite good that you (speaking to another teacher) corrected the situation in a mild way. It was necessary to say that an error had occurred, so that you could present the whole thing as a complete picture. It needed to be corrected from a different perspective. You seem to have been quite near, but could not say something positive about the documents. You should have done that.
Another thing that was a kind of error was to try to enliven the discussion of religion in the lecture “The Artistic Element in Religion Class.” You didn’t say anything in the lecture about the artistic presentation of religion, so the title was not justified. You didn’t connect the discussion about teaching religion with that. Such things simply have a negative effect.
We must make a serious effort to avoid such negative situations. I intentionally wrote an essay about Richard Wahle because I wanted to show how the Anthroposophical Society should interact with the rest of the world, both verbally and in writing. I wrote that essay to illustrate the attitude we should have. When you read the essay, I would ask you to recognize that it handles the question of how we should orient ourselves when working with people in the world outside.
We have to take the positive things into account also; otherwise we will never get past our illusions. It is destructive to work with illusions, and we cannot permit ourselves to be devoted to them in our judgments. We need to be clear that we can move forward only through people who come to us as spiritual virgins. We can move forward only with such people. If you think all of your politeness can change the opinion of a school official, then you have one of the strongest illusions, one that can be terribly harmful. It is important that you keep people’s good intentions, but have no illusion that they will help you. At best, they may help in externalities by not forbidding that you do something. We might summarize the school officials’ impression as, “Things are not so bad at the Waldorf School. It, of course, represents things we believe in.” If you think that opinion is true, then we should close the Waldorf School tomorrow. It would not have been necessary to have started it at all.
You must have no illusion. It is easy to criticize. You do not need to avoid criticizing, but you should allow the criticism to result in something positive. It is important to use these things we learn clairvoyantly to illuminate these things that approach us from outside. If you understand the intent of Truth and Science, you will find that reality lies in the interpenetration of perception and the results of human activity.
Well, that is what has happened recently, at least to the extent that the Waldorf School is affected, and I want to do everything to bring our movement forward. What we need, however, is some kind of communication with the central directors, in the normal sense of the word, about anthroposophical work. That is slowly disappearing in spite of the fact that important members of the committee are on the faculty. You seem to forget you are anthroposophists the instant you become Waldorf teachers. That is not acceptable.
The major failing of the conference was that no one thought of doing something for these anthroposophists who had traveled here from afar and to whom we should have brought something more anthroposophical. It is very curious that we are approached from all sides to convey something about anthroposophy. It is really so; I couldn’t take a step without someone saying something, and those who volunteered to direct such activities did nothing to meet the concrete wishes of members of the Society. On the contrary, they did not even take their own wishes into account. They certainly have wishes themselves. That would change immediately if the various streams, such as the pedagogical, suddenly shifted toward the other side. Now that we have finished the conference, we need to be conscious about taking that into account in the future.
A teacher makes a remark.
Dr. Steiner: Now we need to make a final decision about the classes. The main problems are the 1a and 1b classes. Before Miss Hofmann can continue her work here in the Waldorf School, she will need a year to recover. She cannot use her strength here until she has recuperated for a year. I therefore propose that Dr. von Heydebrand take over the 1a class. I believe that is also her desire. I think we can resolve such problems in this way. The question of who teaches the classes needs to be considered by the whole faculty. I would ask that you say everything you have to say about who teaches each class, both for and against. In the case of Dr. von Heydebrand, there is, of course, no “for” or “against.” Everyone will be happy if she takes over the 1a class. Are there any proposals for 1b? I ask that all of you say what you have to say, since the faculty as a whole needs to agree with who teaches each class.
There is some discussion about Miss N.
Dr. Steiner: Much of the problem lies in the fact that you cannot speak. You can never teach in that way. You really need to get used to the idea of taking a course in speech. You did not complete last year because of the way you present yourself, how you used to present yourself. You cannot speak. When you stand in front of the class that way, you will never finish.
Z. says something about that.
Dr. Steiner: That is true for many. Mr. Z. does not understand that because he has developed a language for himself that works right down into the fibers. You should not underestimate what a difference working to develop your speech makes. If someone does it instinctively, as you do, and it is certainly positive that your voice is so effective, then you should not be surprised that the subject comes up here. Miss N. will have difficulties as long as she does not accept the need of taking a course in proper speaking. (Speaking to Mr. Z.) Your speech carries, and so much depends upon the speech. (Speaking to Miss N.) You will see that you will have a completely different attitude after you have taken some instruction in speech. The one you have now gives the children the impression you are a dried-up old lady. That is what is important. Mr. Z. makes the impression of a lively young man. Why shouldn’t we say such things? So much depends upon these things in pedagogy. You need to get used to them if you are to make any progress in putting aridness aside.
If you took some good speech instruction, you would not have as many colds. I am not at all surprised. Do not underestimate the hygienic influence proper speech can have. Being able to speak properly is very significant. As long as you cannot use your organs of speech properly and one thing runs into another, as long as you do not properly cultivate your organs of speech, you will have colds. I think it is terrible that so many of you have colds. If people would properly “onion” themselves by learning how to speak, colds would disappear.
Marie Steiner: Proper speech often helps getting past colds, but not always.
Dr. Steiner: Well, the fact is that we really need to do something in this direction. I don’t mean that in a moral sense, but aesthetically. There is a discussion about whether Miss N. could or should stay at the Waldorf School. Some of the teachers object to her teaching.
Miss N.: I would find it most valuable if you, Dr. Steiner, would say something.
Dr. Steiner: I already said what I think. If things continue in this way, then we will have enormous difficulties. I would like you to recall, however, that what happens to A could also happen to B. I think that if we continue with this depressing way of looking at things, we could close.
The general opinion has been that I should select the teachers. We should continue with that, but now the problem is that although that opinion has not changed in fact, it has changed in feeling, in how we look at the situation. I may have to pose the question now of whether the faculty members want to select the teachers themselves.
On the other hand, today’s discussion has not changed the fact that it may be better if you were to go to C. I think that might be better. It is not easy to overcome such a mood. That just occurred to me.
It is too bad. How can we make a decision when you want to discuss everything within the faculty? This could happen to anyone tomorrow. In deciding who will take a position here at the Waldorf School, there are so many things to consider that are no longer the same thing when they are spoken in words. It is really very difficult to do when things are said such as, “A person is completely unfit to teach a class.” That is something that could happen to someone else tomorrow, and should not happen here. One such case is enough. It is terribly sad that we have even one such case. I do not think it is completely unfounded, though. Miss N. has been unable to gain the sympathy of a number of colleagues, not just in the question concerning her class. That, however, could happen to any of you.
For those who have experienced the things I have, this may be an interesting story. In Vienna there was a lecturer, Lorenz, who was appointed as the rector, and who then gave a speech about Aristotle’s view of politics. He was now God. His predecessor was a theologian. The assistant rector was very much disliked for a speech he had given in the state assembly. The students decided to stamp him out. This situation was now presented to the rector for a decision. Lorenz went into the class and was greeted with, “Rise.” He said, “Gentlemen, your ‘rise’ is quite insignificant to me. Your ‘rise’ is quite unimportant to me after you have trampled out a man who, regardless of his political opinion, is such a scientific great, someone standing far above me.” Then the students shouted, “Die, Lorenz!” You can learn a great deal from this story. The question is, therefore, who will take over the 1b class. Perhaps we should leave it open for now.
Dr. Steiner reviews the teaching schedule for the 1923–1924 school year and makes a number of decisions.
Dr. Steiner (speaking to one of the teachers): You need to go on vacation for a year. I cannot take the responsibility for your taking a leave due to illness and then reappearing here shortly afterward. When you have been as sick as you were, then you were so sick that I would ask you to go on vacation for a year. Since you participated in the pedagogical conference, it is clear you could have waited to take your sick leave. I am affronted by the fact that you went away and caused so much confusion, then returned and participated in the conference; I cannot say I have very much trust that you will be able to take up your teaching at the beginning of school. I can only suggest that you take a year off. The whole thing is a ridiculous situation.
I have to say that from my perspective, the situation was such a major disappointment that I no longer believe you will be able to teach successfully. This is not a severe rebuke. The work here in the Waldorf School is not a game. We cannot allow people to take things lightly.
You can see that it is not easy for me to take up a second case. Of course, we had to bow to health, but then you must want to become healthy again. It is not a harsh decision to ask you to go on leave for a year.
Anyone can attack me through their personal ambition. Everyone can trample around on me. Those are things I don’t discuss with others. Before 1918, I did not need to speak in that way. Things are terribly misused. This is no harsh rule. It was enormously foolish for you to come again. You really need to gain some strength, and you should not undertake such foolish things again. Were you to continue to teach as you have, I could have no trust. The events have shown that you needed to leave, but then you come back at a time when it is silly to return.
I know those sayings. When people want to come to such a conference, they say it is terribly important. You need to be clear that I can do nothing more than say you need to recuperate for a year. I do not understand why you find that so difficult. You need to get used to undertaking things conscientiously and to feeling responsibility, and not simply skip recuperating because you want to hear certain things now. If you have something important to do, you should also be careful with your health. I am saying that in a very decent way and have good intentions toward you. Nevertheless, you need a year’s leave. (Speaking to one of the upper-grade elementary-school teachers) There is a tremendous amount of dissatisfaction with you. A whole group of parents think that you are rude and that the children cannot handle the way you present yourself. That saddened me because I thought the way you taught botany was very good. It is difficult, because people do not see that things come from various directions.
A teacher: I will try to improve that.
Dr. Steiner: I think you should not be too childish in the way you present things to illustrate the subject. It seems to me that you underestimate the children’s souls. You do not live with their souls at the stage in which they now exist. You need to teach without presenting things too childishly.
I wonder if we need to change things in the ninth grade so that we no longer have the normal main lesson. The eighth grade is really the last year of elementary school. In the following grades, we change teachers. It is a question whether we can continue. Let’s take a look at the teachers.
Dr. Steiner discusses in detail the teaching schedule, the subjects, and the class schedule.
Dr. Steiner: In the upper grades a thorough review of mathematics would be included in main lesson. Two hours would be enough for that. If the mathematics teacher takes over the main lesson, then we do not need more time for review.
(Concerning a new teacher) X. will come and be integrated here so that he is not ruined by having to go through the Stuttgart system. It would be good if he could jump in wherever we need a replacement in academic subjects. First of all, we would then have a substitute teacher, and second, he might effectively take over teaching academic subjects in the upper grades. He would have to be guided if he were to take over such a class. We could achieve some kind of relief if we used him to continue what was introduced by one of you teaching a core subject. Otherwise, we could not develop new teachers. This is something that might work well. The problem with these subjects is that there is not enough time for preparation; the teachers are simply not well enough prepared. That is the situation. We can only improve that if you are relieved.
I would like to have X. here for that reason, but there is an additional reason. X. may really achieve something someday. I don’t see that the Research Institute is in such a condition that we should send him there. If we did, he would only stand around. We cannot afford to simply throw young people away when we can include them here. He will do something. That needs to be our standpoint, as then we can properly fill out the positions for teaching academic subjects.
A teacher says something.
Dr. Steiner: (During the discussion concerning hiring somebody to teach humanities) Could your wife take over teaching the humanities in the ninth grade? I have not proposed that as yet, because I thought she had too much to do with the children. We cannot allow it to become common that man and wife are both employed here. When the children are no longer in diapers, it would be a good idea if she could take over literary history and history.
We need to fulfill other conditions when we are under the pressure of having to prepare the twelfth grade for their final examinations. In that case, the teaching has to be very concentrated. We will have to take up the question of final examinations soon. We will have to ask the students questions in such a way that they can easily fail.
The best thing would be if we were in a position to work only with those students who really want to take the final examination. This final examination question is really a burden for us, but there will probably not be very many who really want to take it. Are there many girls who want to take the final examination?
A teacher: In the other upper grades, there are many who want to go into eurythmy.
Dr. Steiner: Then they should not take the final examination. When the eurythmy school is halfway established, we will have to form eurythmy more completely. It cannot remain the way it is now, but will have to be more completely developed. When someone wants to become a ballet dancer, she must undergo training for seven years. We also need to have some supplementary subjects. In time, it will be absolutely necessary to have a genuinely human education there. Related arts such as dance and mime will also have to be taught. If the eurythmy school is to be successful, we must develop it further. Such training will most certainly need five years. We cannot afford to just wildly produce eurythmists. Those who are later to become teachers certainly need to have a complete education. They need to know something about the human being, also. They will need an education in literary history, for example. Slowly, we will have to develop a proper curriculum.
The question now is whether we could free those who are to become eurythmists from those classes they do not want to take. They could then go over to the eurythmy school and learn there.
It would be best if we did not split the curriculum at the Waldorf School with eurythmy. We would have to do things so that when there is a split, those who are moving on would not take the final examination. That is, those who want to have further education in art could not take Latin and Greek.
A teacher asks if the twelfth grade should learn bookbinding and working with gold leaf.
Dr. Steiner: It would be wonderful if we could continue with that.