Faculty Meetings with Rudolf Steiner
15 June 1924, Stuttgart
Dr. Steiner: I had thought a meeting with the faculty would not be possible during this short visit. In light of the bad news I received today, though, I thought it was absolutely necessary to have this meeting and discuss the latest events. We cannot have a long meeting, since I have another meeting right after this one. However, we need to discuss the events of the past days. Before I go into the situation, I would like you to tell me about the events first.
A report is given about a theft by S.Z. and W.R.
Dr. Steiner: Aren’t both boys in the eleventh grade? Have you noticed anything unusual recently?
A teacher: Not in school. W.R. was very active in class, but S.Z. is less interested in learning.
Dr. Steiner: S.Z. lived with Mrs. A. and W.R. said they wanted to look at her furniture. That is undoubtedly when the boys took the key; now we have the question of whether Z. himself was truly active or whether R. is the real instigator, as appears to be the case. How long have the boys been in the school?
A teacher: S.Z. has been here for three years and W.R. for four.
Dr. Steiner: W.R. also stole some money. Which teachers worked with him?
A number of teachers report.
Dr. Steiner: These cases certainly give us a lot to think about. Now that I have heard what you said, there is even more to consider. These are symptoms of something that has recently become quite visible in other areas.
Through our Waldorf School methods, we bring children very far in one respect, which is in regard to intellect and spirit. Our students are very much farther along than other students of the same age. That is something no one can deny. From eighth or ninth grade on, the whole student body consists of very different young human beings than those in other schools. Now, of course, the human being is a whole, and bringing people forward in an intellectual/spiritual way requires that we also bring their souls just as far along morally. No one can deny that what we achieve in teaching in the Waldorf School is primarily limited to the period the children are actually in school, and that the relationship to the students primarily results from what happens during classroom hours. That is the relationship that results, and we can hardly change it when the faculty is so overworked that personal relationships to the children don’t actually arise as they should in order to achieve a moral and soul development parallel to the intellectual and spiritual development. Beginning in the eighth grade, the moral influence of the faculty upon the students is very much lacking. There is also no contact between the students and teachers outside class of the sort that should exist, so when the students of the eighth grade have certain tendencies, they are left too much to themselves morally. We do not speak about the students in the way we would if we had closer contact with them. The letter you wrote me about R. resulted from your classroom relationship. There was nothing visible in it to indicate that you had a personal relationship to the students. It was also quite clear from your verbal reports today that you have no real contact with the students. I can certainly see that there is not enough time and that the teachers are overworked; on the other hand, it is an objective fact that things have been this way for a long time. What we are missing is something that should absolutely occur through the attitude of the Waldorf School pedagogy; an exact psychological picture of the students should live within the teachers, but a detailed psychological picture of the students does not live in the teachers’ souls. I do not know how the way you have developed this student psychology in your recent faculty meetings compares with the way it could have developed in meetings with me. You could have given some of the students in the higher grades some special attention here. I don’t know to what extent you do that when you meet by yourselves, but what exists is certainly not what it should be.
We now have these three children, N.N., S.Z., and W.R. There was a slight limitation in N.N.’s mental capacities, which could have been healed through energetic and longer-lasting psychological treatment. Whenever we spoke about N., I said that if he were treated such that he developed some trust, then he would be able to come to a teacher when he was in need and relate to that teacher as he would to a father. That would have improved the situation. My impression is that you did not do that, so N.N., who would have been easy to treat, in fact did not develop the deep love for a teacher that would have enabled him to improve. In such cases, discussions about morality do not help. The only thing that can help is for the student to form such a close relationship with a teacher that he or she feels especially drawn to that teacher. However, such contact has not developed, though I had hoped it would. Now he has left, but we have certainly not earned any medals for helping him firm up his moral stance.
Now we come to S.Z. Although I do not know him as well, it seems he has a moderate moral and intellectual weakness. He seems to be a boy who is intellectually weak and easily influenced. Probably he is relatively suggestible, so that a strong moral influence would affect him just as much as a less-good one. As things stand, he is to a large extent morally ruined, and the effects of this have been going on for several months, so that the moral problem exists in addition to the moderate intellectual weaknesses.
Now we have W.R. He is clearly not just moderately, but extremely weak intellectually. In saying this, I need to remind you that young people can be extremely weak-minded in that they cannot use their intellects for doing anything more than busywork well. Such people can create basic and exact judgments and can seem quite clever. Nevertheless, in W.R. we have an absolute and constitutional weak-mindedness. We could have held him only if there had been an inner harmony between the care he receives at school and where he is living, so that he would have been strongly influenced by the school and by where he lives. Neither of these happened. Both where he was living and the school left him to himself in regard to his morals. No one worked with him. R.’s inner problems are therefore extremely great. These are things we must clearly examine from a psychological perspective. If the Waldorf School is to continue to exist, we need to think seriously about how we can overcome them. If the Waldorf School is to continue, everyone’s goodwill must act together, perhaps by having, prior to a new school year, a series of teachers’ meetings where we discuss the moral position of the school. We cannot move forward otherwise. We have a major deficiency in that regard. My first thought is that you have forgotten there must be a strong contact between the teachers and the students, and that concerns the school.
Concerning the two students, Z. and R., in spite of the fact that they were in the Waldorf School, they have come to behave as they did recently, and we have no real hope of favorably influencing them if they continue at the Waldorf School. Your lack of contact has become too great to have any real effects upon them. Thus, after what we have seen, we must unfortunately say, and this is quite painful, that if these two students remain in the Waldorf School, they will become worse and worse from a moral standpoint, and, in addition, they will infect others. What you have said in this meeting completely proves that. There is no possibility of thinking anything other than that they will become more and more morally depraved. We are faced with the fact, at least from our present knowledge of the situation, that we might be able to work with Z., but most certainly not with W.R. Z. may improve, and that is something we could attempt. Due to his suggestibility, we may be able to achieve an improvement with S.Z. We could consider that. As long as we had to deal only with Z., I said we should keep him, and I wanted to do that even against his father’s wishes. However, if both boys remain, they will most certainly become worse. There can, however, be no discussion about W.R. remaining in the school. The situation is extremely tragic, primarily because it is a question of conscience for our school. We need to admit that we presented the school to these two boys in such a way that the school was incapable of improving them morally.
Neither of the boys is a kleptomaniac. They are weak-minded, not kleptomaniacs, and they have an intellectual and moral weakness in addition to the weakness in their souls, which makes the problem particularly difficult. If they were kleptomaniacs, we could consider giving them some therapy, but since they are weakminded, there is nothing we can do but put them in a class for weak-minded children. That, however, is unthinkable.
The way things now stand, we have no real authority with W.R. It is quite clear that there has been an inner corruption of both boys for several months. Therefore, there is nothing we can do with R. other than advise that he be removed from the school.
We could give S.Z. a short probationary period during which we would really have to pay attention and try to work with him. With W.R., the situation is difficult. He should go someplace where there is a systematic working toward moral improvement. Of course, I don’t mean a normal juvenile home. If he remains in the school, he will become worse than he already is. If he leaves school and is left to himself, he will become even worse than if he remains in school. He needs to be placed with a family who will improve him morally, or maybe in some institution. There is nothing more that can be done with this boy. You need to accept his situation by recognizing that his inner moral corruption has reached an enormous level as a result of his intense constitutional weak-mindedness. It would be dangerous for both the school and the boy himself for him to remain in school in the same situation. We should look for a family.
We cannot protect the two boys from the juvenile court. They will most certainly be sentenced. Is there some way we can involve an expert in the sentencing? In such a situation, we would have to find a local doctor willing to be an expert for the cases.
I have to admit it is, in a certain sense, very strange that it is particularly the children of anthroposophists who develop so poorly in the Waldorf School. The children who were expelled some time ago were also children of anthroposophists.
What I mentioned before from a general perspective, namely, that you lack contact with the children, is something we should concern ourselves with. That weighs on me heavily, and I have also noticed it through other symptoms. The faculty has not developed a sufficiently penetrating psychological view of the individual students because — the problem is not that you need more time, but that you need to develop a desire for this contact, so that what the teacher wants is also wanted by the students. That is a quality you can learn, but now you engage in a certain distancing.
When I was going through the classes, I also noticed a tone I have often mentioned, an academic tone, which has increased rather than decreased. You are lecturing. To an extent, you make some attempts to use the Socratic method, but take a closer look at what often occurs. You lecture and ask questions now and then, but the questions you ask are generally trivial. You delude yourselves when the students answer such obvious things correctly. You simply throw everything else at the children in overwhelming lectures. There is a major difference in the way the lower grades are taught, but beginning with the eighth grade, you no longer have any appropriate intimate contact with the students. So far, there is no lecturing in the little children’s classes. There, things are considerably better. This certainly lies heavily upon my heart. I have often mentioned it, but you have not really done much to relieve the situation. You should say what you wish now; then we need to discuss some other things.
A teacher: What exists in the constitutions of these children? You spoke of a constitutional weak-mindedness.
Dr. Steiner: Where kleptomania is present, the situation is such that the human being has polaric constitutional aspects. The head tends to want to assimilate everything. The head is one pole, whereas the metabolism, which carries moral perception, is the other. It is possible to show that schematically by drawing a lemniscate. The head does not recognize property rights, it recognizes only an absolute ownership of everything that comes into its realm. The other pole recognizes morality. When, however, the function of the head enters the will, kleptomania results. This illness results because the aspect that belongs in the head exists in the will. Stealing is something quite different from a tendency to kleptomania, which is expressed through mental absences during stealing. The person takes things upon seeing them, because the item stolen seduces the person into doing clever things to obtain it. The symptoms of kleptomania are clearly delineated.
The situation with N.N. could have been a borderline case of kleptomania; with the other two boys, though, we are dealing with moral insanity, an absolute inability of the physical functioning of the head to comprehend lying. They have not fully come into their etheric and physical bodies. This is not a sudden event like epilepsy, but a continuous mental absence.
W.R. is someone who is never quite here. He does not go around like other people, but more like a sleepwalker. He even soaks up the rays of light that fall upon him from the side. He does not see like other people. The position of his eyes is quite abnormal. Also, his temples have hardened, so the astral body cannot enter. There is, therefore, a clear case of weak-mindedness inherited from both the father and mother, which inhibits him from comprehending what is allowable or not. He cannot grasp it, it always slips away from him. It is like trying to grasp a piece of glass that has been covered with oil. Since intellectual judgments occur within the etheric body and are then reflected back by the astral body, he can be quite extraordinary intellectually. If a human being is to develop moral impulses, the etheric body must grasp the physical body, but that is not the case with him. He is incapable of saying this is good so I may do it, and that is not, and so forth. In order to form a judgment, it is necessary to do more than simply to connect the subject and the predicate. An intense strength is also needed to feel or live your way into the judgment. He can certainly connect subject and predicate, but only in pictures, not in the will. That is why he is unable to develop a sense of morality. Just think for a moment how strong the hereditary influence is in him. It is really very strong.
Why does he lie? He lies because it is not possible for him to judge something due to the weakness of his will power, and thus he cannot develop a sense for truth. It does not matter to him whether he says something is white or black, whether he says yes or no. It has nothing to do with the integrity of his insight. You need to differentiate between integrity of insight, which can be completely present, and the intensity with which judgments can be grasped and held. Weak-minded people are lacking in their capacity to retain judgments. They simply cannot grasp the judgment. That has nothing to do with logic. It is a purely psychological phenomenon.
A teacher: What should we tell the class?
Dr. Steiner: You should tell the class that R. can no longer be in the class because of what he has done. You do not have to moralize about him. You could mention that in human society we must respect property, and that that is necessary in earthly life. As much as we like him, it is impossible for him to remain at the school. S.Z. is a little weak-minded.
I need to give things a new direction. At the beginning of September, I will be giving two courses in Dornach, one about pastoral medicine and the other on theology. I will be here later in September to give a seminar on these questions.
A teacher says it is difficult to develop contact with the students in the short period of time available and asks Dr. Steiner to help.
Dr. Steiner: I will do what I can, but do not forget that the problem is primarily a question of your interest in the children and young people, and is a question of enthusiasm. It is not without reason that I emphasize at every opportunity that we cannot move forward in any area without enthusiasm and without some inner flexibility. Actually, if I — I mean it is really bad. I do not see any of that enthusiasm. I do not see you making any effort to really create it. If I could actually do everything I need to do, I would, for example, look to see how many chairs I could find pitch on following a teachers’ meeting. It seems to me as though you are glued to your seats, you are tired. You cannot be tired if you are to live in the spirit. Being tired is simply a lack of interest. These are things that must be said.
You have to use some pedagogical tricks to get a psychological picture of the students, and we want to speak about those later. The most important things, however, are enthusiasm and interest, but enthusiasm cannot be taught. I have a slight impression that for some of you, teaching has become boring. You have not the least interest. We need enthusiasm. We have no need for superiority or clever thinking. We need to use the method upon ourselves in order not to become tired. You are also tired in the classroom when you should be teaching. That cannot continue. That is the same as if a eurythmist sat through rehearsal. This picture is terrible; it is without any style.
A teacher: What is actually an “old member”?
Dr. Steiner: Some people can be old members even though they have been in the Society only three days.