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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

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Education for Adolescents
GA 302

Lecture Three

14 June 1921, Stuttgart

In today’s lecture we shall consider how the content of a lesson may be adapted to the life of the children. There can be no doubt whatsoever that an education that is not based on a true understanding of the human being cannot possibly succeed in adapting the content of a lesson to the reality of human life.

The spiritual aspect of the human being is not recognized today; it is really only the physical body that is considered. There are some, perhaps, who admit to something of a soul nature that, in a vague way, influences the physical body. But even they do not consider the inner concrete nature of soul and spirit. It is exactly this consideration that anthroposophy is to contribute toward an understanding of the human being. It is only this that will, in a conscious way, make the adaptation of our lessons to the human life processes possible.

Let us assume—it will not be difficult to imagine it—that the children are listening to a story you tell them, or that they are looking at a picture you drew for them on the blackboard, or that they are looking at a diagram of an experiment, or that they are listening to a piece of music you play for them. In each of these activities you are initially in a relation to the outer physical reality of the children. But what you are inserting into the children in a roundabout way through the physical reality—be it through the eyes, the ears, or the comprehending intellect—everything that is thus placed into the children very soon assumes a quite different form of life.

The children go home, they go to bed, they go to sleep; their egos and astral bodies are outside their etheric and physical bodies. What you did with the children in this roundabout way through the physical body and also the etheric body continues in the astral body and the ego. But the latter two are now, during sleep, in a quite different environment. They experience something that can only be experienced during sleep, and everything you taught the children participates in the experience. The effects of the lesson that remain in the astral body and ego are part of the experience during sleep. You must know that you let flow into the astral body and ego what you teach the children through this detour of the physical body and that you thus affect the children’s sleep experience. The children will present to you on the following morning the results of what they experience between falling asleep and waking.

A simple example will clarify this for you. Let us think of a child who is doing eurythmy or singing. The physical body is active, and the active physical body and the etheric body impress this activity on the astral body and ego. The ego and astral body are forced into participating in the movements of the physical and etheric bodies. But they resist, because actually they have other forces to concentrate on. These forces must now, in a way, be subdued. And although the ego and astral body resist, they must accept what their own physical and etheric bodies mediate to them—in eurythmy it is more the physical body; in listening to a piece of music, it is more the etheric body.

Ego and astral body then enter the world we live in between falling asleep and waking up. Everything that has been impressed on them continues during sleep to vibrate in them. Ego and astral body actually repeat—in the more intricate and spiritualized way peculiar to their nature—what they experienced in eurythmy and music. They repeat all of it. And what they thus experience during sleep, this the children take with them to school on the following day. The children incorporate the experience into their etheric and physical bodies, and we have to reckon with that.

Considered in totality, the human being presents an extraordinarily complicated structure for us to come to terms with in our lessons. Let us now take a closer look at these processes. Let us consider a child who is doing eurythmy. The physical body is in movement, and the movements of the physical are transferred to the etheric body. Astral body and ego initially resist, but the activities of the physical and etheric bodies are impressed on them. Astral body and ego then separate during sleep and connect the impressions to spiritual forces that are quite different. On the following morning astral body and ego return the impressions to the etheric and physical bodies. We can then see a remarkable harmony between that which was received from the spiritual world during sleep and what the etheric and physical bodies experienced during eurythmy. The effect shows itself in the way the sleep experiences adjust to what was prepared and carried out on the previous day. It is only in this complementing of the physical/etheric by the spiritual that we can see the special healing element of eurythmy.

Indeed, spiritual substantiality is brought to the human being upon awakening in the morning after a day including eurythmy. It is similar in singing. When we let a child sing, the essential activity is that of the etheric body. The astral body must strongly adapt to this activity and, again, initially resists before taking it into the spiritual world. The astral body returns, and what it brings back again expresses itself in effectively healing forces. We may say that in eurythmy we have a force that mainly affects the health of the child’s physical body, while in singing a force expresses itself that mainly affects the child’s mechanism of movement and, through movements, then again the health of the physical body.

We can make very good use of these connections in education. If we organize our curriculum—this is an ideal, but the teachers could at least try to come close to it—so that the eurythmy lesson is given in the afternoon, it will be allowed to continue its life during the following night. On the next day, we can teach a physical education lesson in the way I outlined yesterday. The experience then penetrates the body in such a way that the movements made in physical education have a healing effect. Much can be achieved by this alternation of eurythmy and physical education.

Or again, much can be achieved on any one day when we let the children sing. They take this experience into the spiritual world during sleep. On the following day we let them listen to music—we let them listen to rather than make music. What was done on the previous day is then consolidated in the listening to music—an extraordinary healing process. You can see that under ideal conditions—that is, a curriculum structured to adapt to the conditions of life—we can affect the children’s health in an extraordinary way. We shall do still far more in this regard.

Let us take the physics lesson as another example. We make an experiment. Remember what I said yesterday: Our thinking, our mental pictures, are head processes, while it is the rhythmic human being who judges, and the metabolic human being who draws conclusions. It is especially our legs and feet that draw conclusions. If you keep this in mind, if you think of the processes of perception in this way, you will tell yourselves that everything connected with the will, everything we produce out of ourselves during the process of perceiving, is deeply connected to the drawing of conclusions and not only to the forming of mental pictures or ideas. When I look at my body, then this body is itself a conclusion. The idea, the mental image, arises only because I am looking at my body, but in carrying out a definite half-conscious or unconscious procedure, I synthesize the parts in a way, akin to the forming of judgments, that allows me to experience the totality. I then express the experience in the sentence: This is my body. But this is already the perception of a conclusion. As I perceive, perceive intelligently, I am drawing conclusions. And the whole of the human being is within these conclusions.

This is so during an experiment, because in experimenting the whole of the human being is active, receiving information. Conclusions are continuously drawn during the process. Judgments are generally not perceived; they are predominantly inner processes. We may thus say that the whole of the human being is occupied during an experiment.

From an educational point of view, children do not really benefit much at all from such experiments. They may be interested in what they see, but their normal organization as human beings is as such not strong enough for them to exert themselves continuously in every part of their being. That is not possible. I always ask too much of them when I ask them to exert themselves totally. The children always get too far outside themselves when I ask them to observe an experiment or something in the environment. The important aspect in education consists in really paying attention to the three parts of the threefold human being—in allowing each part to receive its due, but also in getting all to the point where they can correspondingly interact.

Let us return to the physics lesson. I make an experiment. The whole of the human being is occupied, is asked to make an effort. This is quite enough to begin with. I then draw the children’s attention away from the instruments I experimented with and repeat the various stages. Here I am appealing to their memory of the direct experience. During such a review or recapitulation—without the presence of the apparati, purely in the mind—the rhythmic system is especially enlivened. After having engrossed the whole of the human being, I now appeal to the rhythmic system, and to the head system, because the head naturally participates during recapitulation. The lesson can then be concluded. After first having occupied the whole of the human being, then mainly the rhythmic system, I dismiss the children. They go to bed and sleep. What I activated in the whole of their being, then in their rhythmic system, now during sleep continues to live in their limbs when astral body and ego are outside the body.

Let us now regard what remains lying on the bed, what allows the content of the lesson to keep on working. Everything that has developed in the rhythmic system and the whole of the human being now streams upward into the head. Pictures of these experiences now form themselves in the head. And it is these pictures that the children find on waking up and going to school. Indeed, it is so. When the children arrive at school on the following morning they have, without knowing it, pictures of the previous day’s experiments in their heads, as well as pictures of what—in as imaginative a way as possible—I repeated, recapitulated after the experiment. The children I then confront have photographs of the previous day’s experiment in their heads. And I shall now reflect on yesterday’s lesson in a contemplative way. Yesterday I experimented, and in reviewing the experiment I then appealed to the children’s imagination. In today’s lesson I add the contemplative element. In doing so, I not only meet the pictures in the children’s heads, but also help to bring the pictures into their consciousness.

Remember the progression: I teach a physics lesson, make an experiment, then recapitulate the stages of the experiment without the apparatus. On the following day, we discuss the previous experiment, contemplate it, reflect on it. The children are to learn the inherent laws. The cognitive element, thinking, is now employed. I do not force the children to have mere pictures in their heads, pictures they have brought with them from sleep, pictures without substance, without meaning. Just imagine the children coming to school with these pictures in their heads, of which they have no knowledge. If I were to immediately start with a new experiment, without first nourishing them with the cognitive, contemplative element, I would again occupy the whole of their being, and the effort they would have to make would stir up these pictures; I would create chaos in their heads. No, above all, what I must do first is consolidate what wishes to be there, provide nourishment. These sequences are important; they adapt to, are in tune with, the life processes.

Let us take another example, a history lesson. In the teaching of history there is no apparatus, no experiment. I must find a way of again adapting the lesson to the life processes, and I can do this as follows. I give the children the mere facts that occur in space and time. The whole being is again addressed just as during an experiment, because the children are called upon to make themselves a mental picture of space. We should see to it that they do this, that they see what we tell them, in their minds. They should also have a mental picture of the corresponding time. When I have brought this about, I shall try to add details about the people and events—not in a narrative way, but merely by characterization. I now describe and draw the children’s attention to what they heard in the first part of the lesson. In the first part, I occupied their whole being; in the second, it is the rhythmic part of their being that must make an effort. I then dismiss them.

When they return on the following day they again have the spiritual photographs of the previous day’s lesson in their heads. I connect today’s lesson with them by a reflective, contemplative approach—for example, a discussion on whether Alcibiades or Mithradates was a decent or an immoral person. When I make an objective, characterizing approach on the first day, followed on the next day by reflection, by judgments, I shall allow the three parts of the threefold human being to interact, to harmonize in the right way.

These examples show what can be done if the lessons are properly structured, if they are adapted to life conditions. The structuring and adaptation are only possible in our curriculum, which allows the teaching of a subject for several weeks. They are not possible in the traditional schedule, wherein physics is taught on one day and, perhaps, religion on the next. How could one thus consider what the children bring with them? It is difficult, of course, to structure all the lessons in this way, but one can at least come close to doing so. And by taking a good look at our schedule, you will see that we have attempted to make that possible.

It is furthermore also important to have an overview of all these connections. If you remember what I said yesterday—that it is not only the head but the whole human being who is a logician—you will learn to appreciate the significance of activities that require skills. It really was not a mere whim on our part when we introduced knitting also for boys. The faculty of judgment is indeed essentially enhanced by this activity of the hands. It is least developed through mere logical exercises. Logical exercises actually do very little for the development of the faculty of judging, of forming opinions. By connecting predicate to subject we contribute nothing to that faculty. What we actually do in that instance is make the faculty of judgment rigid. Children so exercised will grow into adults who can only judge according to patterns or schemes. Too many intellectual exercises result in schematic individuals. Another result of such exercises is too much salt deposit; the human being is permeated by salt and tends toward perspiring. We can easily observe this in children whose judgments have been unduly taxed: they perspire too much during the night.

Indeed, it is true. When we are too strongly and one-sidedly intellectual/spiritual—without knowing that the physical/corporeal is the pure expression of the spiritual—we usually affect the body, and mostly in the wrong way. Herbart’s education, as well as that of others—education that is predominantly based on developing the faculty of forming mental images and ideas—results in the destruction of the body. It is important for teachers to know this.

You can see the significance of what I have told you in other areas of life. Every decent human being is supposed to listen to sermons in church. This is certainly a good tradition. The usual sermons are rather abstract. In fact, the preacher is trying to direct his congregation from everyday life to higher regions. They are to be edified and so on. It is all quite justified. Still we must understand what is actually happening during today’s sermons, preached by people who are living in abstractions, who are ignorant of the connections in nature, whose thoughts do not contain such connections, who in fact do not even enjoy natural phenomena.

Let us now assume that the faithful attend such sermons that are not connected to everyday life. There are many such sermons nowadays. The faithful listen. Initially we do not notice anything amiss. But they do get physically ill, albeit only to a slight degree that is outwardly not noticeable. The effect of such sermons is the breeding of slight illnesses. A few hours after such a sermon, the listeners are subjected to the processes of an illness. The pain is consciously experienced to only a half or even a quarter degree. The inevitable effect is the feeling of one’s miserable body. But surely the cause cannot possibly be in the sermon that has raised one to higher, more spiritual regions! One then analyzes one’s feelings, becomes contrite, and realizes: I am a sinner. This is the interpretation of the illness that follows a sermon. And this—making the congregation experience themselves as sinners—may even have been intended by a certain unconscious shrewdness on the part of the sermonizer.

This phenomenon, quite general in our time, is connected with the other phenomena of decadence. I have mentioned it in order to show you that a wrong preoccupation with the spirit does not affect the spirit but rather the body, and quite concretely; I have mentioned the phenomenon so that you may understand that we ought to educate our children from a knowledge of this accord of the spirit with the physical body.

Sometimes curious events are not noticed, although they greatly influence the whole of our cultural life. During the last third of the nineteenth century less attention was given to the teaching of geography. The subject of geography played an ever diminishing role in teachers colleges. It was given an unimportant place in the curriculum, to be taught as a secondary subject by either the teacher of history or the teacher of the natural sciences. But take another good look at our diagram of the human being on the blackboard. When we see the human as a being who draws conclusions, who is placed within the world and does not separate from it through the head, we cannot think of him or her without the surrounding space. Space is part of the human being. Insofar as we have feet and legs, we are a part of the world of space. And the teaching of geography is, spatially considered, for the astral body a “being-put-on-itslegs.” The astral body actually grows denser and thicker lower down. We teach about space and in so doing increase the density of spirit and soul in the lower astral body, toward the ground. In other words, we consolidate, we bring about a certain firmness in the human being when we teach geography in an imaginative way—always stressing the reality of space, making the children conscious of, for example, the distance between the River Thames and Niagara Falls.

If we teach geography clearly and graphically, we place the human being within space, and we especially cultivate an interest in the whole world. The effects will be seen in various ways. Individuals taught geography in this way will have a more loving relation with their fellow beings than those who have not learned about spatial relationships. They learn to take their place next to other human beings, learn to be considerate. These things strongly affect the moral life, whereas the neglect of geography results in an aversion to loving one’s fellow beings. Even a superficial observation will confirm this. The connections are there, even if they are not noticed. Today’s unhappy cultural phenomena are the effects of such follies.

The effects of the teaching of history are quite different. History is concerned with time. We only teach it correctly when we pay attention to this fact. If we merely concentrate on historical episodes, we do not consider the time element enough. If, for example, I speak about Charlemagne as though he were the children’s uncle who is still alive today, I give them a false picture. Whenever I speak of Charlemagne, I must give the children a clear and graphic experience of the distance in time. I can do this by saying: “Just imagine—you are a small child and you take your father’s hand.” The children will have no difficulty in imagining this. I now point out the difference between the child’s and the father’s ages. I continue: “Your father holds his father’s hand, then he your grandfather’s, and so on. Now imagine thirty people holding hands. The thirtieth could be Charlemagne.” In this way, the children get a feeling for the distance in time. It is important to teach history in this way—not placing isolated episodes next to each other but rather giving the children the feeling of distance in time.

It really is important to point out the characteristic differences [in consciousness—translator] when we deal with specific epochs in history, so that the children can have an idea of them. What matters is that historical events are seen to be living within the framework of time. Seeing historical events in this way strongly affects our inner life.

If, on the other hand, we teach history in a way that ignores the time element and also takes hold of the inner life too strongly—that is, if we concentrate on recent local history at the expense of events in the distant past, if (as it were) we put the emphasis in our lessons on cultivating a wrong patriotism (you will easily think of many such instances)—then we shall greatly engender obstinacy and willfulness of the inner life and a tendency toward moodiness. These are side effects, which will, above all, make people reluctant to observe world events objectively. And this is so terrible today. Neglecting geography and taking the wrong approach to history have greatly contributed to the serious illnesses of our time. You yourselves will admit to the problems you have in facing many a situation now, problems resulting from the way you were taught history in school.

The examples I have given you will illustrate the path our teaching must take if it is to connect to life conditions, to life impulses, in a healthy way. We cannot be satisfied simply with mediating facts; we must, above all, be aware of the life conditions of the human being in the physical, soul, and spiritual connections. We must always see the human being before us; and we must see the human being in his or her totality, as a being who is also extremely active during sleep. If we ignore this sleep activity—and this is ignored in today’s education, apart from the hygienic aspects of sleep—if we ignore the fact that the content of our lessons continues into sleep, develops further during sleep, we will have the quite definite effect of making the human being into a robot, an automaton.

We could, indeed, venture to say that today’s education is in many respects an education not toward humanness but toward the most obvious type of human automaton—namely, the bureaucrat. Our children are trained to become bureaucrats. Such people are no longer really human. They are fixed, they have an existence, they are finished. The human being is lost, is concealed behind the label. We have an appointment with an officer, be it a clerk or barrister, and it matters little who the actual person behind the label is.

Such is the result of only paying attention to daytime consciousness in education, of denying the spiritual element, of not considering the activities during sleep. We see this tendency in a frightening way in modern philosophy. Descartes and Bergson assert that the ego constitutes the continuity of the human being, that in the ego we can grasp the reality. I would like to point out to such people that they then cease to exist as soon as they fall asleep, that they always begin life anew on waking up. The dictum “I think, therefore I am” should really be changed to: “On June 2, 1867, I was from 6 A.M. to 8 P.M., because I thought during that time. Then again I was from 6 A.M. to 8 P.M. on the following day.” Life would then become rather complicated. What lies between 8 P.M. and 6 A.M. would have to be excluded. But this is not considered, because such people prefer all sorts of ideas and abstractions to the realities at the basis of the human being.

But we must deal with these realities in our education. Doing so will allow us to educate human beings again. Doing so we need not then worry about establishing the right social or economic conditions. People who have been educated as human beings will see to them. Clearly, cultural life must be autonomous and independent. We can educate human beings only when concentrating on their human aspects, when we think about social change merely as a consequence of such an education—that is, not as having been made by the government. Cultural life must not be an appendix of the state or of economic life but must develop out of its very own sphere.