Faculty Meetings with Rudolf Steiner
18 December 1923, Stuttgart
Dr. Steiner: We should talk about everything that has happened during this long period.
They discuss a letter to the Ministry of Education about the students who will take the final examination.
Dr. Steiner: Why was it necessary to add that it lies in the nature of block instruction that some subjects have not been taught? In such official things, the smartest thing to do is not to get people upset by telling them things they don’t want to hear. What still needs to be done in literature?
You need to proceed efficiently. Some of the things you want to teach should be taught, but for the examination you do not need to teach the students anything about Goethe as a natural scientist, nor will they be asked questions about his letters on aesthetic education. His poetry will cause them some pain because it is not so easy. Hauptmann’s Hannele is better than Die Weber. They don’t have any idea about Goethe as a natural scientist. For such examinations it would be a mistake to feel you need to set up such a curriculum. Those things are not expected even for someone who is working toward a doctorate. They cannot be done in two years in school. Look here, here we have Faust, Part I.
I would like to know how you could do all that in school. Do you think you will find some themes for German in them? You need to cover what will come up in written examinations.
If you go to the ministry too often, they will think you have a bad conscience, and will get the feeling that things are not going right here. You should not go into such things so much, but only answer when the ministry writes. We will see how things go, we can always withdraw.
In the last part of school, you need to be sure that the students write and answer as much as possible themselves. They need to be much more active individually. If a student does not already know something, you should not be so quick to help. They need to develop their will and find the answers themselves. This is much better than it was before, when the students had to do nothing more than listen. I need to go through all the classes again and will do so at the next opportunity.
They present a letter inviting the Waldorf School to present some student work in Berlin.
Dr. Steiner: It would be good if we had more exact information. You need to find out what he wants. Exhibits of student work have a real purpose only when a course is being undertaken, that is, when the entire context and content of the Waldorf School are presented. But just displaying work? As long as people do not know exactly what the goals of the Waldorf School are, those who look at the work will not know what we expect of the students. It is the same as if we said we want to present only the pictures from an illustrated book of children’s tales. People will not understand anything. The people in Berlin need to say whether they will support the Waldorf School.
They discuss C.H. in the eleventh grade.
Dr. Steiner: His relationship to the class needs to come from his character. You should have him draw what is on the object, not the object itself. How light affects the object. The illuminated side and the shadow side. Not the table, but the light upon the table and the table’s shadow. He lacks a sense of perspective in painting. It is a clear defect, and it is good to work on his deficiencies. Let him try to draw a human face, but he should not draw a nose, only the light upon it and the shadows from it. You need to try to speak with him about things. He is disturbed. You need to make him imagine things sculpturally. He will be better in arithmetic than geometry, so you will need to make sure he understands geometry and isn’t just doing it from memory.
Cliques in the eleventh grade are discussed.
Dr. Steiner: Give them “Outsiders and Sociable People” as an essay topic, so that they have to think things through.
A teacher asks about eleventh-grade English. They have read Macaulay’s Warren Hastings.
Dr. Steiner: You could also read some English poetry, for example “The Sea School.” In addition, you could give them some characteristic prose, for example a chapter by Emerson such as the ones about Shakespeare and Goethe. Have them read that and then try to show the abrupt changes in the style of his thoughts. Discuss aphoristic and nonaphoristic styles and things in between, and show the relationships of those styles, how they arise. You should discuss that with the students and bring in a little psychology also. Emerson’s method of writing was to take all the books out of his library and spread them in front of himself. He then went around, walked around the room, read a sentence here or there, and wrote it down. He did the same thing again and then wrote down another sentence, independent of the first, and so forth. He found his inspiration in the library, and you can see the resulting jumps in his writing. Nietzsche wrote about the things he read by Emerson, for instance about Nature. In his own copy, Nietzsche circled certain things and then numbered them. Anyway, read poetry and Emerson.
A teacher: What should we read in tenth-grade French? Could we read Poincaré? A number of students want to leave.
Dr. Steiner: That is still a dangerous, a strange thing. In principle, you could do that, but not with Poincaré because there is so much untruth in it.
For those who want to leave, perhaps you should choose something that appears to be foreign to life, but actually leads to it. Something like Bulwer-Lytton’s Vril. That could be read in the tenth grade.
There is a collection of French essays by Hachette that contain essays by the other Poincaré, the mathematician. There is also a second part about technical thinking. That is something that might be useful.
For twelfth-grade English, you might also consider MacKenzie’s Humanism. We cannot go along with dropping French as they are doing in public schools.
A eurythmy teacher asks about difficulties with the upper grades. Some of the students want a different teacher.
Dr. Steiner: You need to treat that with some humor. Appear to agree and then develop it ad absurdum. There are always some students who want a different teacher. You need to be firm in your position and take it with some humor. You could perhaps ask, “What do you have against me? I am really a very nice lady; there is no reason for you to hate me.” Sometimes, you can quiet things in a couple of minutes that way.
A teacher asks about P.Z. in gymnastics class.
Dr. Steiner: He does not align the main direction of his body with gravity. You should try having him do exercises on the high bar so that he hangs. I mean that literally. Such an exercise would free his astral body. Sometimes you have children who look as though their astral body is too large, so that it is like a loose-fitting cloak around their I. Through such exercises, the astral body will become more firmly connected with the I. They feel good when their feet are off the floor, for instance, when they climb a ladder and sit there quietly. With such children, you will usually notice that they have something like oily or fatty skin when they hang their astral body. It will be like that in some way. Or, they may have wrinkled and loose skin.
Perhaps you can arrange gymnastics class so that groups of children do what is necessary according to their temperaments.
A teacher asks about the dramatic presentations done by the children at Miss MacMillan’s school.
Dr. Steiner: They do many things there that are not appropriate for the age of the children. It is impossible to put on dramas with children younger than ten, though afterward that goes quite well. It is not the method, but Miss MacMillan’s strength and spontaneity, that is effective. The method is strongly affected by the English tendency to do things too soon. That arises from the unusual relationship English people have to their experience of themselves as human beings. They want to be seen as human beings, and that is something taught them through such things. Such people have a strongly developed astral body, which limits their I to a certain level. That is not the case in other European countries. Spiritually, Englishmen look like human beings who go around not fully clothed, who do not have a collar. That is how their I lives within them and how they are in their surroundings. They have a certain human sociality in their character that makes up their national character. They like dramatic presentations of the human being, also Bernard Shaw. They want to do something that has validity, something others will recognize.
A teacher: S.T. in the ninth grade is very clumsy in his written expression. Should I have him do some extra work in writing essays?
Dr. Steiner: You should work with his handwriting, very basically, through exercises. As an extra task, you could have him write a quarter page while paying attention to how each letter is formed. If he would do that, if he would pay attention to forming each letter, it would affect his entire character.
Aside from that, his lines of vision converge at the wrong place. His eyes do not properly fix upon the object. We should correct that. Remind him often so that his eyes look in parallel. You can also have him read as though he were shortsighted, although he is not. His eyes droop just like he droops when he walks. He does not walk properly, he drags his feet. Have you ever noticed, for example, that when he is at the playground and wants to run from one place to another, he never does it in a straight line, but always in some kind of zigzag. You should also look at how his hair always falls across his forehead. He also has no sense of rhythm. If he has to read something rhythmic in class, he gets out of breath. In gymnastics, you could have him move firmly, stamp his steps along.
Karmically, it is as though he has two different incarnations mixed together. In his previous incarnation, his life was cut off forcefully. Now, he is living through the second part of that incarnation and the first part of the present incarnation at the same time. Nothing fits. He has already read Kant. He cannot do things any other child can do, but he asks very unusual questions that show he has a very highly developed soul life. Once, he asked me if it is true that the distance between the Sun and the Earth is continually decreasing. He asked whether the Sun was coming closer to us. He asked such questions without any real reason.
You need to show him other perspectives, and have him do odd things in a disciplined way, for instance, some mathematical things that pique his curiosity, that are not immediately clear to him. You could, for example, have him make knots with a closed loop. Oskar Simony discusses that in his paper on forming knots with closed loops.
Since this was unknown to most of the teachers, Dr. Steiner showed how a strip of paper pasted together to form a closed loop crossed itself in the middle when twisted one, two, or three times. One twist resulted in a large ring; two twists resulted in two rings, one within the other. With three twists, the result was a ring knotted in itself. While doing this Dr. Steiner discussed Oskar Simony in detail.
Dr. Steiner: Simony counted the prime numbers. He once said that in order to bear occult events, you need a great deal of humor. That is certainly true.
Simony was like S.T. He drags himself around, has little sense of rhythm and needs to learn to observe what he does. Everything he does that causes him to think about what he has done is good. St.B. should do eurythmy exercises in which he has to pay attention to forming the letters with his arms toward the rear. He should pay attention to doing the exercise without it becoming a habit. He cannot integrate his etheric body into the periphery of the astral body.
We cannot consider K.F. a Latin student. Perhaps it is quite good for him to sit there like a deserted island. Sitting there in isolation may not be bad at all. I just now am clear that it is good if he is isolated.
A report is given about L.K. in the first grade. She does not like fairy tales or poetry.
Dr. Steiner: She should make the letter i with her whole body, u with her ears and forefinger, and e with her hair, so that she does all three exercises with some sensitivity. She needs to awaken the sensitivity of her body, so she should do that for a longer period of time.
A teacher: S.J. in the seventh grade is doing better writing with her left hand than with her right.
Dr. Steiner: You should remind her that she should write only with her right hand. You could try having her lift her left leg so that she hops around on her right leg, that is, have her jump around on her right leg with her left leg drawn up close to her. She is ambidextrous.
If there are children who are clearly left-handed, you will need to decide. That is something you can observe. You need to look at the left hand. With real left-handed children the hands appear as though exchanged; the left hand looks like the right hand in that it has more lines than the right hand.
This could also be done through the eyes. You could have children who are really left-handed raise the right hand and look at it with both eyes. Observe how their eyes cross as they move their gaze up their arm until they reach the right hand and then move their gaze back. Then have them stretch their arm. Do that three times.