Faculty Meetings with Rudolf Steiner
31 July 1923, Stuttgart
Dr. Steiner: I am sorry I could not be here at the end of school. It was not possible, though I thought we would be able to meet at that time. You have told me there are a number of things we need to discuss, so I would like to begin there.
A teacher reads a letter from F.R.’s father. The boy had stolen sixteen silver spoons, and his father wants to keep him home.
Dr. Steiner: This story about the spoons is old. The boy’s relationship to his father was never any different. The father would like to take him out if he will go. We need to find a way to work with the boy. We can certainly not throw him out. The boy needs a little moral support at these times. We have to give him some moral support. He is only in the ninth grade, and the children in that class need some moral support. They need a certain relationship to the faculty. They need to love the faculty. I think you have lost contact with the whole ninth grade. The boys immediately see that is very wrong. I think this whole theft problem has caused an enormous amount of remorse in F.R. We need to help him. Under no circumstances can we allow the boy to be taken out. We should not give any cause for removing him from school. We need to work with him.
Doesn’t G.T. have a little tendency to fool himself? He seems to play the part of a pleasant boy.
You need to avoid expressing subjective judgments. If you use such expressions, you will have a subjective relationship. Even when the boys do the worst things, you need to stick to the facts and never relate them to the person. If you reprimand the boys, you can achieve nothing more.
Certainly old R. is someone who cannot control his anger. His treatment of the boy is such that you can almost understand when he exhibits such behavior. When the situation is like that at home, we can only feel sorry for the boy.
We need to have more contact with the students in the upper grades. At that age students cannot stand going through a whole morning of class without any personal contact. They want you to be interested in them personally. They want you to know them, to be interested in them, that is what they want. In those grades this is still a school, not a college; the class is too much like a college, like a seminar, and not enough like a school. They want some contact with the teacher.
I already said it was five, but these five are not just some boys we can throw out into the street. If we threw them out into the street, it would be an unnecessary loss for humanity. We cannot allow that to happen. F.R. is not nearly so talented as T.L.
The father can do what he wants, and we can only try to help. It is crazy to say we should try to force him. The father can do what he wants during the holidays. I think we need more personal contact with the students in the upper grades. It is important that we attempt to have a more personal relationship with them.
One of the ninth-grade teachers says that he would like to visit the class of the previous teacher.
Dr. Steiner: You could make some interesting observations if you visited, but it is very important that you have no difficulties when you stand before your class. During your free time, you should have worked through the material so completely that it causes you no effort while you are teaching, so that you can give all your attention to how you are teaching. The material should be second nature. This whole discipline question is primarily a question of good, methodical preparation. That is true for all the subjects in all grades. It is a question of preparation. Perhaps a basic question is whether there is enough time for preparation. Many of you have told me that there is not enough time for proper preparation. It is obvious that here in the Waldorf School we must do what is necessary to prepare thoroughly, so that the material itself gives us no difficulty when we stand before the class. The students notice very quickly when that is not the case. Then they feel themselves to be above authority. That’s when the problems start.
I can see nothing more than that these five boys are really very good. F.R. is a little weak. He is quite dependent upon being treated such that he feels that you mean what you say honestly. This is a feeling he does not have with his father. He is always wondering subconsciously whether things at school will be the way they are at home. He wants to be understood, but he thinks he is treated without any understanding. His father does not know he is so angry. Everything depends upon the interest the boys have for the content of your teaching. They all pay attention in algebra. They have not been so bad. I have often observed how you can work quite well with them.
It is silly that the father wrote this letter. He did so even after I told him that the way to avoid such problems is for no one to speak about them, not to anyone, and that we have to teach the boy that he should also not speak about them to anyone. Then the father did this anyway. The old man is less well behaved than the boy. This is all very difficult. The boy does not lie to anyone, even when he has to admit some misdeed, but the old man lies all the time. The problem is that the boy knows his father lies every time he opens his mouth. He knows that from his own experience. It would have been best if the boy had seen that, as bad as his action was, we still have so much sympathy for his moral situation that we will cover it up. He can only lose more if we hang it from the bell tower. It would be best if we could remove F.R. from his parents.
All kinds of problems are coming up. I have a new student to enroll, S.T. He is sixteen and will go into the ninth grade. The boy is very well versed in philosophy, knows Plato and Kant and also Philosophy of Freedom. He is good in mathematics, but poor in Latin and German, poor in history, knows a little about geography and natural history, and is horrible in drawing. We need to take all of that into account, but we cannot put him in the eighth grade, since he has already attended the ninth grade at another school. He would also be too old. We must find a place for him to stay, somehow we need to find one. Since there is no room with the teachers, we need to see if we can’t find somewhere else where he can stay.
A teacher mentions there is always so much noise in the eighth grade. She wants either to teach two students separately, or to divide the class.
Dr. Steiner: Taking them aside is not a particularly good method. You need to try to stop their running around. You could give them some extra help, but it is not good to teach them separately. You can divide the class if that is possible. The class is too large for the situation as it is. It would be quite good if you were to give them some extra help, but do not take them away from the class. Such things will always arise, that you have students who are difficult to handle. In normal schools you would not have such students, but with us, they need to move with the class. I think, however, that things would go better if you were better friends with them.
A teacher asks about B.B. in the eighth grade.
Dr. Steiner: Such people exist, and your task is not simply to rid yourself of them, but to really work with them. I do not believe we should try to influence them. What the mother wants to do is another thing. Just because we see there are some difficulties, we cannot simply remove a student from school. You need to interest him. You can work with him if you give him some reason. B. said he didn’t take any of the plums, but when Mr. S. asked him if they were ripe or not, he said Mr. S. was really very sly. He gave the impression that he was defeated.
You must give him some reasons for turning inward, otherwise his thinking will always be like nailing a box shut with a hammer that is always falling off the handle. There are clumps of fat between the various parts of his brain, so that he cannot bring them together. If you get him to really think, he withdraws, but in that way he can get through the fat. I am convinced that he is a good boy, and that you can work with him.
You need to try to move him on so he can move to the next class. You still have five weeks. You can learn to be sly also.
Nettle baths would be useful for him. It might also be useful to add some lemon juice to the bath; in any event, bitter things, bitter plants. I could even say sauerkraut. If possible, use a mixture of all three, but no licorice. Do this three times a week, but not too warm. He should not eat too many desserts. If he has bread, try to toast it, so it has as little water as possible. He has a tendency to form fat, and we must eliminate that. He is also lazy. You could also do the standard curative eurythmy exercises for fat with him. You can also give him some coffee.
A teacher: How can I learn to be sly?
Dr. Steiner: Did you read the issue of Das Goetheanum that contained Brentano’s riddles? Try to get the book and then solve all the riddles. I am serious about that. I selected the four most difficult for the article. That is all there is to say about being sly with B.
A teacher: The Association for School Reform has invited us to participate in a pedagogical conference.
Dr. Steiner: The question is whether you have any interest in going there and speaking. It is senseless. Anyone who would write such a letter was not born to be a school reformer. This is all just nonsense. On the other hand, though, our perspective could be that we would just say something. We could take the standpoint that we would say as much as possible about the subject. Someone who is not afraid of doing that could go and speak about our work, although what you would say would serve no real purpose. Someone who would write such a letter has not been called to that task. It is all just show. That is immediately clear from the letter.
A teacher asks about participating in the art conference in Stuttgart.
Dr. Steiner: Only the things we initiate under our full control have any real purpose. Participation in such a conference would make sense only if you took the standpoint that you wanted to go and talk about our work. Someone could become aware of our Waldorf School method in nearly every kind of gathering. Of course, it would have to be people with whom you could achieve something, as at the English conferences. We need to see them in a different way. This stuff here is just garbage, so we need to view it without any great expectations. If you have no particular desire to go, then simply write that in the near future we are so occupied with developing the Waldorf School and its methods that we need to devote our entire attention to it. That would be more useful than such a conference. We need to be careful to look at what people’s real interest is, otherwise we would degrade the Waldorf School. We can easily reply that we have no time because we need to further develop our methods. I don’t think it is very pedagogical simply to put children’s paintings on display.
We cannot discuss any principle questions today. Perhaps there are still some questions about the material to be taught or how to treat the children.
A teacher asks about algebra in the eleventh-grade curriculum.
Dr. Steiner: What I said was that you should go far enough for the children to have an understanding of Carnot’s theorem and how it is used. That essentially describes the whole curriculum. A great deal of algebra is involved. They will need to understand a lot of algebra, series and functions. The curriculum can stay with that. They should be able to solve problems requiring the use of Carnot’s theorem in all its aspects.
(Speaking about a new teacher) I have made the whole faculty responsible for his education as a human being. You need to be careful that he does not deviate.
A religion teacher: What should I use as examples for folk religions?
Dr. Steiner: The Old Testament. The Hebrew people.
Teachers ask about art class, Goethe’s poetry in the tenth grade, and metaphors.
Dr. Steiner: That material is included in almost all the grades. Of course you can teach them about metaphors and similes. You can teach them a feeling for poetic forms. We cannot say that Goethe could do that only after a certain age, that he could write a verse only after the age of forty. If we do, the students will ask themselves why they should do it when Goethe could do it only at the age of forty. Such things cause reactions, and you need to be very careful. Nevertheless, you can do it. In art, the problem is the material. You can, however, be guided by what the students understand.
A teacher asks about King Henry II.
Dr. Steiner: What I said was that it was his desire to found an ecclesia catholica, non Romana. That is a well-known story. You can certainly find a description of Henry II. Lamprecht is not a historian, he is a dilettante.4 He is interesting as being characteristic of the 3. See lecture of March 13, 1924, in Die Geschichte der Menschheit und die Weltanschauungen der Kulturvölker (GA 353, not in English). development of historical science. You will need to find some source book about Henry II. It is all written down. It is not some phrase, but something he really felt. Henry II introduced the Breviary as something holy. In that connection, we can always say that at that time it was possible for someone to come to the Divine Office who wanted a catholic, but not a Roman Catholic, church.
Lamprecht is more appearances, he has no real feeling. He is always speaking so smugly.
A teacher: What do Parzival’s words lapsit exillis mean as the name for the Grail?
Dr. Steiner: No one knows that now.
A teacher makes a comment.
Dr. Steiner: The main thing is that you recover, refresh yourself. It is important that your enthusiasm blossom during the holidays, and that the flower will have become a fruit when you return again, particularly where the class is not so good. The children are already happy to know you will be here again.
The situation in Germany has become increasingly worse, and it will be complete chaos.
The lectures from Oxford should be printed. We are considering one thing. This morning Leinhas said to me that, in his view, there are so many people who have so much to say, but who write nothing. Why don’t they write anything? Even Das Goetheanum is slowly beginning to suffer from a deficiency of material.
A teacher asks how the pedagogical lectures should be prepared for publication.
Dr. Steiner: The pedagogy should be published independently, much as Steffen reproduces my lectures. Those working with the material should prepare it. You should speak about your personal experiences. Support and describe those areas of the Waldorf School that you have as an ideal, so that what results is a living discussion of the pedagogical principles of the Waldorf School. You could write some beautiful essays about art instruction. Das Goetheanum needs some real essays. There must be a real desire to do something independent, even if it is only an independent honoring of things already begun. But do something.
Where do all these useless manuscripts come from? Are they also coming from the Society? Sometimes they print really useless things. It would be good to present the things that arose in the art conference in a more universal way. Why shouldn’t that be the occasion for giving special presentations.
There is also a possibility of discussing very interesting questions of method, for example, questions like those I spoke about in Dornach. There is too little literature about the Waldorf School available to the public. Couldn’t you write something about your principles of teaching? We have forty-two teachers, almost enough that four could write something for each issue. These things need to develop here. We need to develop a feeling for how to present things from various perspectives. I wanted to give an example of that in the introductions to the various eurythmy performances, when I attempted to present something from various points of view. That is what I tried to do with the eurythmy introductions.8 When I gave such an introduction recently, people stood outside and did not come in to listen. That was during the General Meeting, after a session where the German delegates had distinguished themselves so much by saying that the Goetheanum was already in ruins before it burned. Four hours of pure rubbish were spoken during that session. It was just dirty garbage, four hours long.
I hope you will refresh yourselves in every way. In all the various areas of the anthroposophical movement, we need a renewal of our strength. It is really so that we should give consideration to renewing our strength, just as plants renew themselves each year. We need a new inner enthusiasm, a new inner fire. Of course, living conditions are difficult, and they become more so each week. Now the Mark has no value whatsoever; it is only a means of computing. There is no way to foresee what chaos we will slide into. Our monthly budget is now about DM 400,000,000. By August, it could easily be two billion, perhaps even more.
A man in Austria wrote me that he had completed a business transaction for which he will be paid in dollars. He wants to keep only six hundred dollars for himself, and what he receives beyond that he wants to give us. That will apparently happen. I asked him to contact the Waldorf School. That is about DM 500,000,000, but it is really only a drop in the bucket. It is totally crazy, the situation. I think that for a while, it will be just as necessary to have outside money for the Waldorf School as it is for the Goetheanum. This is something we should present properly. It was not done properly in Dornach. Now we need to close.