Faculty Meetings with Rudolf Steiner
3 July 1923, Stuttgart
Dr. Steiner: We need to speak about the class you complained about. I haven’t looked at the ninth grade, yet. What I say to the children must be in harmony with the teachers. I couldn’t have done that today because I did not have a clear picture from our last meeting about what the problem really is. I’m having difficulty understanding what I should tell the children is wrong, and I need to be careful about that. In such discussions it is possible to make things worse than they already are. I would like you to explain things very concretely, so that I can say something to the children in such a way that their replies will not be an accusation against the teachers. The children should not be able to answer by accusing the teachers. This problem is not easy to solve. Today, the children were quite well-behaved. I would particularly like to hear what is bothering K.F. The children are generally well behaved. There are also some slower students. F. has some physical problems, and he does certain things because of that. I must be able to tell the children some things are wrong without them coming back with a report that such and such occurred. We need a good understanding of what happened. Today and the last time I was there, they were very well-behaved.
The teachers report that a group of ninth graders wanted to have F.R. removed. G.T. spoke for the group.
Dr. Steiner: A grudge may be involved here. After it becomes known that students were thrown out because of statements made by other students, then a group may decide they want to get another student thrown out. This conspiracy has gone a little too far. You also said that during other periods they were screaming like wild savages.
A teacher tells about students spitting out cherry pits.
Dr. Steiner: Today, such things will change only as the students gradually become accustomed to the teacher. We cannot change them overnight. The class was not like that before. They did not do such things. Before, some students were simply not very attentive, or disturbed the class by chattering. The children now know that there are some complaints against them. However, they will know we have talked about them in our meeting only when I call them to me tomorrow. Before that, they will know nothing.
Why are they making so much noise in eurythmy? Something must be bothering them. Aren’t these the things you can best cure with humor? F.R. is such a difficult boy because he is treated so poorly at home. T.L. is very gifted.
You also have some complaints about both eighth-grade classes. We should not be surprised by their attitude. It’s not necessarily the children, but it is surprising that it is so strong during class. They seemed very sneaky as they sat there today.
The ninth-grade children should not feel that their teacher is uncertain, that he is not absolutely certain about what he is teaching. They may not have that feeling. I would advise you not to say, “I do not know that.” You should avoid saying you do not know something, especially when you do not know it. You need to be particularly careful when you do not know something. You can bring about that feeling even at an age when children are so critical. At that age, it is very important that they never look at you skeptically. You need to have some humor about such things. I will speak with the children about it; however, I fear it will not go well and they will become still more inwardly critical instead. I find it very difficult that the children will feel that you complained about them to me. Had you not complained, I would have nothing against them. Except that they know nothing about punctuation, we could say they are generally moving along well. They are about fourteen years old. The things you are doing with them assume a level of concentration of which they are capable, so that laziness is only a secondary problem. That cannot be the main problem. Throughout the class, the children are doing things that it is not particularly easy to imagine a fourteen-yearold child doing. So much for the ninth grade.
I will take a look at the young men you mentioned, but I want nothing to do with the group who complained. That is simply the beginning of the same goings-on as last year. I will have a look for myself to see what can be done with those young men.
I had a brief look at the eighth grade. I think the children should not paint when their paper is not properly stretched; their work will be messy. They need to learn how to properly stretch and secure their paper. Allow them to work with paint only on stretched paper. It will hurt nothing if some time is needed for such preparation. The children will learn a great deal if you do it properly with them. The children in the 8a class do things much too quickly. They also paint too hastily. Their notebooks look as if they would give the children terrible ideas.
A teacher comments about B.B.
Dr. Steiner: If he develops some trust, things will improve. He still has quite a number of classes ahead of him, so if he develops some trust, things will change. A particular way to treat him? You would have to give him private instruction. He will sometimes run wild. A teacher asks about German and history in the eleventh grade.
Dr. Steiner: Now you need to give them an overview of literature. You cannot leave everything for the twelfth grade. Why don’t you simply continue? You can do what needs to be done in literary history in a few sentences.
The plan for history is that you continue with what you have already begun. In those periods where you have nothing to teach about history, you should try to move on to the next section through a transition. The tenth grade closes with the Battle of Charonia. In the eleventh grade, you need to cover medieval history. You will not be able to give the boys an understanding of Parzival if you do not give them an overview of history. You will need to make a connection with the historical time.
A teacher: That means I would have to finish the history of the Middle Ages now?
Dr. Steiner: Actually, history should come first. Today, you spoke about Barbarosa, so you are already speaking about the history of the Middle Ages. The curriculum even says that you should handle such literary-historical questions with a historical overview. There are also literary themes that point back to history, for example, Alexanderlied (Song of Alexander), or Lied von Troye (Song of Troy). There is a great deal of historical material from this period.
The main problem now is that if the children go to their final examinations with the punctuation they now know, it could be very bad. They use no punctuation at all in the 9b class. Teaching them punctuation depends upon discussing the structure of a sentence in an interesting way. That is something you can do well in the course of teaching them literature.
For example, if you begin with older German language forms, you can show them in an intriguing way how relative clauses arose slowly through the transformation of writing into Latin structure. That could provide the basis for studying commas. You can teach the use of commas when you first show the children that they need to enclose every relative clause within commas. It is interesting to discuss relative clauses because they did not exist in older German. They also do not exist in dialect. You could go back to the Song of the Niebelungs and so forth and show how relative clauses began to come into the language and how it then became necessary to bring this logic into the language. After you have shown how relative clauses are enclosed with commas, you can go into a more thorough discussion of the concept of clauses. The children then need to learn that every kind of clause is set off by some sort of punctuation. The other things are not so terribly important.
From there, you can go on to show how elements of thought developed in language, and thus arrive at the semicolon, which is simply a stronger comma and indicates a greater break. They already use periods.
There is certainly sufficient time to begin that in the ninth grade. You need to develop it through a positive structuring of language, by going into the intent. It is something that you especially need to do with some excitement; you cannot do it in a boring way. Grammar alone is one of the most boring things.
When you speak in dictations, you must make it clear when sentences end and begin. You should not dictate the punctuation to them. The children will have more when they become accustomed to learning punctuation by working with sentences. It would be erroneous to dictate punctuation. I would never dictate punctuation, but instead have them hear it through my speaking. It would be much better, however, if we could do something else. It would be better if we could divide things as was done in old German, but is no longer done in our more Latin writing — they wrote sentence per sentence, that is, one sentence on each line.
You can discuss the artistic structure of a sentence with the children in an unpedantic way. You can give them a feeling for what a sentence is. You can make them aware of what a sentence is. You should also make them aware that well-formed sentences are something positive. You could, for instance, do something like using Herman Grimm’s style to show them the form of a sentence, how a sentence is pictorially formed. Now, he really writes sentences. You do not find sentences in the things most people read, just a string of words. Sentences are completely missing. Give them a feeling for well-formed sentences. Herman Grimm writes sentences. They must learn to see the difference between Grimm’s style and the things we normally read, for instance, normal history books. You can do that in the ninth grade by giving them a certain kind of feeling for the difference between a complete sentence and an interjection.
The curriculum contains something else that would be very helpful, which is poetics. That is completely missing. You are not taking it into account at all. I have noticed that the children have no feeling for metaphor. They should know metaphors, metonyms, and synecdoches. The result will be wonderful. That is all in the curriculum, but you haven’t done it. Teaching the children about metaphors helps them learn how to construct a sentence. When you bring metaphors and figures of speech into the picture, the children will learn something about sentence structure. You can explain these with some examples. You could explain, for example, the meaning of, “Oh, water lily, you blooming swan! Oh, swan, you swimming lily!” That is a double metaphor. Through such examples, young people gain a clear feeling for where the sentence ends, due to the metaphoric expressions.
With those who have good style, it would not be at all bad to try to frame the sentences rather than using commas and semicolons. You can do this well with Herman Grimm’s sentences and a red pencil. Circle the sentences and then circle twice the things that are less necessary for content, once with red and then with blue. In that way, you will have a nicely colored picture of an artistically formed sentence. You could then compare such sentences with those that are normally written, for instance, in newspapers. The weekly Anthroposophie was no exception to this. It used to go on and on just like some boring German, but now it is better.
This is something we most definitely need to do. You should teach the children punctuation to give them some feeling for logic. Such things can also be quite exciting. If you first get the children used to enclosing relative clauses with commas, then everything else will fall into place. You need to go far enough that they understand that a relative clause is basically an adjective. You could say, “a red rose.” You need no punctuation there. But, if you say, “a rose, red,” then you need to place a comma following rose because red is an appositive. If you say, “a rose that is red,” it is quite clearly an adjective.
If you give them such enlivened examples, learning will not be so boring. In dialect, people say, “the father what can write.” The relative clause is an adjective, that is, the clause as a whole is an adjective. This view of relative clauses is also very important for learning foreign languages.
A teacher mentions Philipp Wegener’s opinion that relative clauses developed from interrogative clauses.
Dr. Steiner: The interrogative could be the basis. Every adjective is actually an answer to a question. However, with “Here are some beautiful apples, give me some,” there can hardly be any talk of a question.
Researchers in languages are sometimes curious. I know of a number of papers about it — “it is thundering,” “it is lightning.” Miclosich wrote long papers about it. That is interesting, but the German it is nothing more than a shortened form of Zeus. It has the same meaning as Zeus, the god: Zeus thunders, Zeus lightnings. It is a stunted form. Many German words need to be traced back to their Greek origins. The German word for it is actually Zeus. The English word it needs to be sought also. It is based, in fact, on something lying in the spiritual. Hopefully, Wegener did not want to say that the relative clause is an interrogatory clause.
Well, that is what we want to do, to begin with the relative clause and go from there into clauses that are abbreviations or indications of an adjective. Beginning with that, which is something we need to emphasize, we can then go on to the semicolon, and finally arrive at the period, which is simply an emphasis or a pause. It is easy to convey a feeling for colons. The colon represents something not said, that is, instead of saying, “the following,” or instead of forming a boring relative clause, we use a colon. We express it in speech through tone. For instance, the way every student should name the animals is, “The animals are: the lion, the goose, the dog, the Bölsche,” and so on. The teacher asks, “What is that, a Bölsche?” “It says here on the book, ‘Bölsche, Das Urtier.’”
The school doctor speaks about some medical cases.
Dr. Steiner: That little girl L.K. in the first grade must have something really very wrong inside. There is not much we can do. Such cases are increasing in which children are born with a human form, but are not really human beings in relation to their highest I; instead, they are filled with beings that do not belong to the human class. Quite a number of people have been born since the nineties without an I, that is, they are not reincarnated, but are human forms filled with a sort of natural demon. There are quite a large number of older people going around who are actually not human beings, but are only natural; they are human beings only in regard to their form. We cannot, however, create a school for demons.
A teacher: How is that possible?
Dr. Steiner: Cosmic error is certainly not impossible. The relationships of individuals coming into earthly existence have long been determined. There are also generations in which individuals have no desire to come into earthly existence and be connected with physicality, or immediately leave at the very beginning. In such cases, other beings that are not quite suited step in. This is something that is now quite common, that human beings go around without an I; they are actually not human beings, but have only a human form. They are beings like nature spirits, which we do not recognize as such because they go around in a human form. They are also quite different from human beings in regard to everything spiritual. They can, for example, never remember such things as sentences; they have a memory only for words, not for sentences. The riddle of life is not so simple. When such a being dies, it returns to nature from which it came. The corpse decays, but there is no real dissolution of the etheric body, and the natural being returns to nature.
It is also possible that something like an automaton could occur. The entire human organism exists, and it might be possible to automate the brain and develop a kind of pseudo-morality.
I do not like to talk about such things since we have often been attacked even without them. Imagine what people would say if they heard that we say there are people who are not human beings. Nevertheless, these are facts. Our culture would not be in such a decline if people felt more strongly that a number of people are going around who, because they are completely ruthless, have become something that is not human, but instead are demons in human form.
Nevertheless, we do not want to shout that to the world. Our opposition is already large enough. Such things are really shocking to people. I caused enough shock when I needed to say that a very famous university professor, after a very short period between death and rebirth, was reincarnated as a black scientist. We do not want to shout such things out into the world.