Faculty Meetings with Rudolf Steiner
3 May 1923, Stuttgart
Dr. Steiner: We want to take care of the things that need to be done today with questions and answers. I do not have time for longer discussions. We want to handle all your wishes and intentions. I do not want anyone leaving something weighing on their soul that they cannot present.
A teacher proposes creating a division between the pure Waldorf School and a college preparatory school. The parents would then decide which their children will attend.
Dr. Steiner: The result would be that we would carry out the school principles and then subject the children to a kind of cramming course. The main problem is that if we did that as thoroughly as necessary, people would still not understand the idea of the Waldorf School. I believe people will understand the idea of the Waldorf School if we make no compromises, which includes not running through things half-heartedly. Instead, we need to show how impossible it is to have a reasonable school system under current conditions. I have never favored slipping through the back door when difficulties arose for the elementary school. I have always favored making it clear to people how things are. You can never do that if you do not energetically work for the idea of the Waldorf School. I do not believe we could ever achieve anything important by slipping out through the back door when difficulties arise.
There is another thing we need to take into account. If we took the standpoint you spoke of, we would have to carry out the idea of the Waldorf School much more broadly and completely than we have done to date. We should have no illusions, and this is something that requires absolute secrecy, that, in fact, our students know anywhere near enough for us to say that the Waldorf School gives them what a human being needs to know by the age of eighteen. They know far too little. We have been, up to now, unable to bring a sufficiently large number of students up to the level of our learning goals. That is the first requirement we need to fulfill for the parents and the world, if we want to offer the world what you have just proposed. It is a simple matter to find a number of things within our teaching goals that have not been achieved through the idea of the Waldorf School. We need to achieve those things, and we must take that into account.
From the results of our teaching, I do not believe we can stand on a corner and shout to the world. The whole question of passing the final examinations is, in the end, a problem, since we need to assume that an ill-willed examination board could fail an entire class. There is almost nothing we can do about that. Were that to occur, all we could do would be to rework the entire curriculum for the last four years — not in art, but in Latin and Greek, for example. Our present Latin and Greek classes were created under the assumption that the students should pass their final examinations. We have always spoken of those classes in that way, namely, how should we create them so that the students can pass their final examinations? I cannot imagine that we could do other than make that compromise, and we need to do it. In that way, we can show that to really achieve the ideal of the Waldorf School requires more than just a controlling will. What you proposed would leave only the question of whether the cramming class would be held here at school or elsewhere. If we create the cramming class here, it would at least have some humor; but if we leave the students at the mercy of an outside cramming class, that would be tragic. That would lead only to a weakening of the Waldorf School idea. All that would gradually lead to an opinion that the Waldorf School is full of odd ideas. The parents would say we know we are not teaching the children enough, and so are turning to an outside cramming class.
A teacher: What should happen concretely in the twelfth grade?
Dr. Steiner: As we said in the last meeting, we will have to meet with the school officials. That is all we can do, but even that may not happen. When the time comes, we could also register our students for the final examination.
A teacher: We would like to know how we could still take the desires and views of the Ministry of Education into account.
Dr. Steiner: That is something we can do or not. You need only look at the curriculum and a number of questions asked on the final examination.
A teacher: It would make taking the final examination easier.
Dr. Steiner: That is superficial and would lead, via a detour, to having our twelfth grade directed by the ministry. It would also be more comfortable for the people there than for us. The main question is whether we want to prepare our students for the examination or not. If we do not prepare them, we could eventually close the last four grades. Parents would not send their children. There seems to be no understanding. The parents connect a large part of the Waldorf School idea with their children being able to take the examination just like anywhere else, only they believe it will be ten times easier in the Waldorf School. They think we can wave a magic wand and make it easier for the children. We should have no illusions about people today, so I see no possibility of doing anything other than that compromise.
Dr. Steiner gives some examples of questions from examinations.
Dr. Steiner: If we interrupt the Waldorf School principle to take up other required subjects, it won’t be too difficult to prepare the students so that they can do the same as others. The students won’t know what we are doing.
I have twice attempted to explain the compromises necessary, once in Dornach, during a course for Swiss and Czech teachers, and a second time when I held a lecture in Prague. At that time a large number of people remained and did not want to go home, so we met together in another room where I gave a second lecture about the idea of the Waldorf School, emphasizing this compromise. Those people understood then that we need to look at things from a very different vantage point. Generally, speaking, we can achieve some understanding for the fact that we need to make compromises.
We need more understanding, but, in order to show how absurd the situation is, we cannot get it through the back door. We need to stand firmly upon our principles and say we are making compromises where necessary.
A teacher: In other schools it is normal to state by a certain deadline who will be allowed to take the examination. We should tell the students before summer vacation begins whether they will be allowed to take the examination or not.
Dr. Steiner: That is true, but we should not do that before we allow the students who were rejected to repeat. However, we cannot do that because it will cause us great problems in the following years.
A teacher: If we allow all the students to take the examination, we risk having 60 percent fail.
Dr. Steiner: We would have to give those students a poor report for the year so the officials will reject them. A rejection by the faculty has no legal consequences. We also cannot register any students. Legally, only the students themselves can do that. We cannot prohibit anyone from registering themselves for the examination. Thus, if some we do not think are capable register, we need to protect ourselves by giving them a poor year-end report. Then, we can say that there is a poor report for one or another. Theoretically, that is the only position we can take since we cannot forbid any of our students from registering for the examination. That is completely out of the question. The situation is that everyone who has reached a certain grade can register. Probably the examination committee will require that such students prove they have completed the necessary courses. Our reports must include a remark that in our opinion, the student is not proficient. The later we ask parents whether their child should take the examination, the easier it will be for us to advise against it.
We can, therefore, not decide other than we did last time. We can, however, try to follow the Waldorf School principle. Of course, in many of our subjects that are not taught elsewhere, our students are, in our opinion, not sufficiently far along. We need to try to find a balance between what we present, that is, what we want to teach in the class, and the students’ work. It is not always the case that the students work enough. In some of the higher grades, they sometimes sit there and doze the whole period. It is true, isn’t it, that there are students who have no idea what you presented when you ask them. That was something that happened even before we spoke about final examinations.
We already determined the instruction for the twelfth grade, but we could include philosophy in the last semester so that they have an acquaintance with scientific gibberish. It is certainly better if the twelfth graders are far enough along in the first semester to take the examination than to wait for the second semester. Usually, the students are prepared during the first semester.
A teacher asks about a continuation school at the Waldorf School.
Dr. Steiner: Those who leave school at the age of fourteen need to go to the continuation school; however, they can do that only if we can obtain recognition for our continuation courses. The character of a unified school would be lost in the normal continuation schools the students are required to attend. They have no significance for us here, since we divide our curriculum according to the needs of human nature. Of course, we could stir things up in that regard, but that would mean the beginning of the end. That would mean that we would have to subject ourselves to the Ministry of Education for all grades above fourth grade. We can exist only because there was a hole in the Württemberg Elementary School Law that made it possible to create schools with teachers who are not certified by the state. We could not have done that if we had wanted to create a middle school. In that case, the officials would have demanded that our teachers be certified. We are living in a hole in the law that existed before Germany was “liberated,” that is, under the old regime. Today, it would no longer be possible to create a Waldorf School. People go along with us because they think they are not going along with us. But, in schools where similar things are tried in other places, it is basically nonsense. They have to have certified teachers. Under present-day conditions a second Waldorf School would not be allowed.
A teacher: Is it possible to extend our continuation courses? There are many fourteen-year-olds leaving this year.
Dr. Steiner: We cannot do that at the drop of a hat. Intentions are not enough, we also need teachers. I don’t know if we can even maintain the continuation courses without additional faculty. We also have other things to do.
A teacher: There are so many slow children in the classes.
Dr. Steiner: We could easily decline to accept students who show no promise. We could say at the very beginning that we cannot accept them since we could not achieve our teaching goals with them. We could easily throw out the students who we do not think will meet the class goals. We must be more careful in accepting new students.
It is a different question with foreign languages. We cannot do that there since that would give the officials a reason to take the four lowest grades from us. We need to take children into the fifth grade. We might want to keep the whole foreign language question separate so that we could put such students in with the younger ones. We need to arrange things so that those students are with the lower grades for foreign-language class. Such children will simply have to go into the next lower grade. Every child fits into some grade. Perhaps we could also create beginning courses.
It will hardly be possible to say anything during the first three weeks. You need to create your tests positively and ask each child what he or she knows in order find out the child’s capabilities. Always try to determine what a child can do. You should not simply ask questions. Try to determine what a child can do, not what he or she cannot do.
A teacher asks about curative eurythmy.
Dr. Steiner: We should maintain the principle of not hacking off some part of main lesson and tacking it on somewhere else.
A teacher asks about a student who has large swings in mood.
Dr. Steiner: He is not enthusiastic. You’ll need to separate him from his mother. You should discuss such things in your faculty meetings. She is unpredictable, someone who suddenly jumps from ninety to one hundred ten degrees in her soul, and he imitates her physically. The situation was always that way. I once said to his mother, who creates a major commotion at every opportunity, that she should distance herself from him. He is a very sensitive boy. It is impossible to imagine anything less rational than the upbringing that exists in that home. It is absolutely impossible. We are powerless, however, because there is no solution other than to free the boy from his mother. We simply need to see some things as karma. The boy was never in a proper school and was always taught sloppily. This is a karmic question.
A teacher asks about visitors.
Dr. Steiner: We should limit visitors to what is absolutely necessary, but we can make some exceptions. We need to get used to asking ourselves what the purpose of the visit is and also to achieve greater respect.
The best would be to print up a form so that people will see we are overrun. In the form, we can state that we can accept visitors only when they explicitly state their reasons and goals.
A teacher: I have gone through the Early and Late Stone Age and then took up the Bronze Age.
Dr. Steiner: You do not need to create analogies between them. It is very good that you present them with those divisions. Cultural periods develop the soul.
A teacher: How should I proceed with history in the twelfth grade?
Dr. Steiner: Give them an overview of all periods so that the ladies and gentlemen know something.
A teacher: In chronology, perspective is most often missing.
Dr. Steiner: Earlier historians did what was necessary. Rotteck has synchronized tables.
The children do not work hard enough in gymnastics, except for maybe a few. They need to learn to tone their muscles. You need to remind them. The children have gone too long without gymnastics, but they are capable. You can do nothing other than to remind them. You need to tell them individually.
A German school essay is mentioned, “The Camel as a Link between the Land and Human Activity.”