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Spiritual Ground of Education

Spiritual Ground: Lecture VIII: Boys and Girls at the Waldorf School

VIII

BOYS AND GIRLS AT THE WALDORF SCHOOL

From the things I have already said it may perhaps be clear to you what all education and teaching in the Waldorf School is designed to bring about. It aims at bringing up children to be human beings strong and sound in body, free in soul and lucid in spirit. Physical health and strength, freedom of soul and clarity of spirit are things mankind will require in the future more than anything else, particularly in social life. But in order to educate and teach in this way it is necessary for the teacher to get a thorough mastery of those things I have attempted to describe.

The teacher must have a complete vision of the child organism; and it must be a vision of the organism enabling him to judge physical health. For only one who is truly a judge of physical health and can bring it into harmony with the soul can say to himself: with this child this must be done, and with that child the other.

It is an accepted opinion to-day that a doctor should have access to schools. The system of school doctors is developing widely. But, just as it not good when the different branches of instruction, the different subjects, are given to different teachers who make no contact with one another, neither is it good to place the charge of physical health in the hands of a person who is not a member of the staff, not a member of the college of teachers. The situation presents a certain difficulty, of which the following incident will give you an example.

On an occasion when we were showing visitors over the Waldorf School there was a gentleman who, in his official capacity, was an inspector of schools. I was speaking of the physical health and the physical organism of the children and what one could observe in it, and I told him about one child who has a certain disorder of the heart, and another with some other disability etc. and then the man exclaimed in astonishment: Yes, but your teachers would have to have medical knowledge for this to be of any use in the school.

Well, yes, if it is truly a necessity for healthy education that teachers should have a certain degree of medical know-ledge, why then they must have it, they must attain it. Life cannot be twisted to suit the idiosyncrasies of men, we must frame our arrangements in accordance with the demands of life. Just as we must learn something before we can do something in other spheres, so must we learn something before we can do something in education.

Thus, for instance, it is necessary for a teacher to see precisely all that is happening when a child plays, a little child. Play involves a whole complex of activities of soul: joy, sometimes also pain, sympathy, antipathy; and particularly curiosity and the desire for knowledge. A child wants to investigate the objects he plays with and see what they are made of. And when observing this free activity of the child's soul — an activity unconstrained as yet into any form of work — when observing this entirely spontaneous expression, we must look to the shades of feeling and notice whether it satisfies or does not satisfy. For if we guide the child's play so as to content him we improve his health, for we are promoting an activity which is in direct touch with his digestive system. And whether or not a man will be subject in old age to obstruction in his blood circulation and digestive system depends upon how his play is guided in childhood. There is a fine, a delicate connection between the way a child plays and the growth and development of its physical organism.

One should not say: the physical organism is a thing of little account; I am an idealist and cannot concern myself with such a low thing as the physical organism. This physical organism has been put into the world by the divine spiritual powers of the world, it is a divine creation, and we must realise that we, as educators, are called upon to co-operate in this spiritual creation. I would rather express my meaning by a concrete example than in abstract sentences.

Suppose children show an extreme form, a pathological form of what we call the melancholic disposition; or suppose you get an extreme form, a pathological form of the sanguine temperament. The teacher must know, then, where the border-line comes between what is simply physical and what is pathological. If he observes that a melancholic child is tending to become pathological, — and this is far more often the case than one would think, — he must get into touch with the child's parents and learn from them what diet the child as been having. He will then discover a connection between this diet and the child's pathological melancholy. He will probably find, — to give a concrete instance, though there might be other causes, — he will probably find that the child has been getting too little sugar in the food he is given at home. Owing to lack of sugar in the food he gets, the working of his liver is not regulated properly. For the peculiarity of the melancholic child is that a certain substance i.e. starch, (German: Starke) is formed in the liver indeed, but not formed in the right measure. This substance is also to be found in plants. All human beings form starch in the liver but it is different from plant starch — it is an animal starch which in the liver immediately becomes transformed into sugar. This transformation of animal starch into sugar is a very important part of the activity of the liver. Now, m the melancholic child this is out of order, and one must advise the mother to put more sugar into the child's food; in this way one can regulate the glycogenic activity of the liver, — as it is called. And you will see what an extraordinary effect this purely hygienic measure will have.

Now, in the sanguine child you will find precisely the opposite: most likely he is being gorged with sugar; he is given too many sweets, he is given too much sugar in his food. If he has been made voracious of sugar precisely the opposite activity will come about. The liver is an infinitely important organ, and it is an organ which resembles a sense-organ much more closely than one would imagine. For, the purpose of the liver is to perceive the whole human being from within, to comprehend him. The liver is vital to the whole human being. Hence its organisation differs from that of other organs. In other organs a certain quantum of arterial blood comes in and a certain quantum of venous blood goes out. The liver has an extra arrangement. A special vein enters the liver and supplies the liver with extra venous blood. This has the effect of making the liver into a kind of world of its own, a world apart in the human being. [Literally “Aussenwelt,” — outer world.] And it is this that enables man to perceive himself by means of the liver, to perceive, that is, what affects his organism. The liver is an extraordinarily fine barometer for sensing the kind of relation the human being has to the outer world. You will effect an extraordinary improvement in the case of a pathologically sanguine child — a flighty child, one who flits nervously from thing to thing — you will get a remarkable improvement if you advise his mother to diminish somewhat the amount of sugar she gives him.

Thus, if you are a real teacher, through what you do, not in school, but at other times, you can give the child such guidance as shall make him truly healthy, strong and active in all his physical functions. And you will notice what enormous importance this has for the development of the whole human being.

Some of the most impressive experiences we have had with the children of the Waldorf School have been with those of fifteen or sixteen years old. We began the Waldorf School with eight classes, the elementary classes, but we have added on, class by class, a ninth, tenth and now an eleventh class. These upper classes, — which are of course advanced classes, not elementary classes, — contain the children of 15 and 16 years old. And we have with these very special difficulties. Some of these difficulties are of a psychical and moral nature. I will speak of these later. But even in the physical respect one finds that man's nature tends continuously to become pathological and has to be shielded from this condition.

Among girls, in certain circumstances, you will find a slight tendency to chlorosis, to anaemia, in the whole developing organism. The blood in the girl's organism becomes poor; she becomes pale, anaemic. This is due to the fact that during these 14th, 15th and 16th years the spiritual nature is separated out from the total organism; and this spiritual nature, which formerly worked within the whole being, regulated the blood. Now the blood is left to itself. Therefore it must be rightly prepared so that its own power may accomplish this larger task. Girls are apt, then, to become pale, anaemic: and one must know that this anaemia comes about when one has failed to arouse a girl's interest in the things one has been teaching or telling her. Where attention and interest are kept alive the whole physical organism participates in the activity which is engaging the inmost self of the human being, and then anaemia does not arise in the same way.

With boys the case is opposite. The boys get a kind of neuritis, a condition in which there is too much blood in the brain. Hence during these years the brain behaves as though it were congested with blood. (Blutuberfullt.) In girls we find a lack of blood in the body: in boys a superabundance, particularly in the head, — a superabundance of white blood, which is a wrong form of venous and arterial blood. This is because the boys have been given too many sensations, they have been overstimulated, and have had to hurry from sensation to sensation without pause or proper rest. And you will see that even the troublesome behaviour and difficulties among 14, 15 and 16 year old children are characteristic of this state and are connected with the whole physical development.

When one can view the nature of man in this way, not despising what is physical and bodily, one can do a great deal for the children's health as a teacher or educator. It must be a fundamental principle that spirituality is false the moment it leads away from the material to some castle in the clouds. If one has come to despising the body, and to saying: O the body is a low thing, it must be suppressed, flouted: one will most certainly not acquire the power to educate men soundly. For, you see, you may leave the physical body out of account, and perhaps you may attain to a high state of abstraction in your spiritual nature, but it will be like a balloon in the air, flying off. A spirituality not bound to what is physical in life can give nothing to social evolution on the earth: and before one can wing one's way into the Heavens one must be prepared for the Heavens. This preparation has to take place on earth.

When men seek entry into Heaven and must pass the examination of death, it is seldom, in these materialistic days, that we find they have given a spiritual nurture to this human physical organism, — this highest creation of divine, spiritual beings upon earth.

I will speak of the psychic moral aspect in the next section, and on Eurhythmy in the section following.

*     *     *

If there is a great deal to do in the physical sphere apart from the educational measures taken in the school itself, the same is true for the domain of the soul, the psychic domain, and for that of the spirit. The important thing is to get the human being even while at school to be finding a right entry into life. Once more I will illustrate the aim of the Waldorf School by concrete examples rather than abstract statements.

It is found necessary at the end of a school year to take stock of the work done by a child during the year. This is generally called: a report on the child's progress and attainment in the different subjects in respect of the work set. In many countries the parents or guardians are informed whether the child has come up to standard and how — by means of figures: 1, 2, 3, 4; each number means that a child has reached a certain proficiency in a given subject. Some-times, when you are not quite sure whether 3 or 4 expresses the correct degree of attainment, you write 3 ½, and some teachers, making a fine art of calculation, have even put down 3 ¼. And I must own that I have never been able to acquire this art of expressing human faculties by such numbers.

The reports in the Waldorf School are produced in another manner. Where the body of teachers, the college of teachers, is such a unity that every child in the school is known to some extent by every teacher, it becomes possible to give an account of the child which relates to his whole nature. Thus the report we make on a child at the end of the school year resembles a little biography, it is like an apercus of the experiences one has had with the child during the year, both in school and out.

In this way the child and his parents, or guardians, have a mirror image of what the child is like at this age. And we have found at the Waldorf School that one can put quite severe censure into this mirror-like report and children accept it contentedly. Now we also write something else in the report. We combine the past with the future. We know the child, and know whether he is deficient in will, in feeling or in thought, we know whether this emotion or the other predominates in him. And in the light of this knowledge, for every single child in the Waldorf School we make a little verse, or saying. This we inscribe in his report. It is meant as a guiding line for the whole of the next year at school. The child learns this verse by heart and bears it in mind. And the verse works upon the child's will, or upon his emotions or mental peculiarities, modifying and balancing them.

Thus the report is not merely an intellectual expression of what the child has done, but it is a power in itself and continues to work until the child receives a new report. And one must indeed come to know the individuality of a child very accurately — as you will realise — if one is to give him a report of such a potent nature year by year.

You can also see from this that our task in the Waldorf School is not the founding of a school which requires exceptional external arrangements. What we hold to be of value is the pedagogy and teaching which can be introduced into any school. (We appreciate the influence of external conditions upon the education in any school). We are not revolutionaries who simply say: town schools are no use, all schools must be in the country, and such-like; we say, rather: the conditions of life produce this or that situation; we take the conditions as they are, and in every kind of school we work for the welfare of man through a pedagogy and didactics which take the given surroundings into account. Thus, working along these lines, we find we are largely able to dispense with the system of “staying put,” — the custom of keeping back a child a second year in the same class so as to make him brighter.

We have been blamed at the Waldorf School for having children in the upper classes whom the authorities think should have been kept back. We find it exceedingly difficult, if only on humane grounds, to leave children behind because our teachers are so attached to their children that many tears would be shed if this had to be done. The truth is that an inner relationship arises between children and teacher, and this is the actual cause of our being able to avoid this unhappy custom, this “staying put.” But apart from this there is no sense in this keeping of children back. For, suppose we keep back a boy or girl in a previous class: the boy or girl may be so constituted that his mind unfolds in his 11th year, we shall then be putting the child in the class for 11 year-old children one year too late. This is much more harmful than that the teacher should at some time have extra trouble with this child because it has less grasp of the subjects and must yet be taken on with the others into the next class.

The special class (Hilfsklasse) is only for the most backward children of all. We have only one special class into which we have to take the weak, or backward children of all the other classes. We have not had enough money for a number of “helping” classes; but this one class has an exceptionally gifted teacher, Dr. Schubert. As for him, well, when the question of founding a special class arose, one could say with axiomatic certainty: You are the one to take this special class. He has a special gift for it. He is able to make something of the pathological conditions of the children. He handles each child quite individually, so much so that he is happiest when he has the children sitting around a table with him, instead of in separate benches. The backward children, those who have a feebleness of mind, or some other deficiency, receive a treatment here which enables them after a while to rejoin their classes.

Naturally this is a matter of time; but we only transfer children to this class on rare occasions; and whenever I attempt to transfer a child from a class into this supplementary class, finding it necessary, I have first of all to fight the matter out with the teacher of the class who does not want to give the child up. And often it is a wonderful thing to see the deep relationship which has grown up between individual teachers and individual children. This means that the education and teaching truly reach the children's inner life.

You see it is all a question of developing a method, for we are realistic, we are not nebulous mystics; so that, although we have had to make compromises with ordinary life, our method yet makes it possible really to bring out a child's individual disposition; — at least we have had many good results in these first few years.

Since, under present conditions, we have had to make compromises, it has not been possible to give religious instruction to many of the children. But we can give the children a moral training. We start, in the teaching of morality, from the feeling of gratitude. Gratitude is a definite moral experience in relation to our fellow men. Sentiments and notions which do not spring from gratitude will lead at most to abstract precepts as regards morality. But everything can come from gratitude. Thus, from gratitude we develop the capacity for love and the feeling for duty. And in this way morality leads on to religion. But outer circumstances have prevented our figuring among those who would take the kingdom of heaven by storm, — thus we have given over the instruction in Catholicism into the hands of the Catholic community. And they send to us in the school a priest of their own faith. Thus the Catholic children are taught by the Catholic priest and the Evangelical (protestant) children by the evangelical pastor. The Waldorf School is not a school for a philosophy of life, but a method of education. It was found, however, that a certain number of children were non-conformist and would get no religious instruction under this arrangement. But, as a result of the spirit which came into the Waldorf School, certain parents who would otherwise not have sent their children to any religion lesson requested us to carry the teaching of morality on into the sphere of religion. It thus became necessary for us to give a special religious instruction from the standpoint of Anthroposophy. We do not even in these Anthroposophical religion lessons teach Anthroposophy, rather we endeavour to find those symbols and parables in nature which lead towards religion. And we endeavour to bring the Gospel to the children in the manner in which it must be comprehended by a spiritual understanding of religion, etc. If anyone thinks the Waldorf School is a school for Anthroposophy it shows he has no understanding either of Waldorf School pedagogy or of Anthroposophy.

As regards Anthroposophy, how is it commonly under-stood? When people talk of Anthroposophy they think it means something sectarian, because at most they have looked up the meaning of the word in the dictionary. To proceed in this way with regard to Anthroposophy is as if on hearing the words: ‘Max Muller of Oxford,’ a man were to say to himself: ‘What sort of a man can he have been? A miller who bought corn and carted the corn to his mill and ground it into flour and delivered it to the baker.’ A person giving such an account of what the name of Miller conveyed to him would not say much to the point about Max Muller, would he? But the way people talk of Anthroposophy is just like this, it is just like this way of talking about Max Muller, for they spin their opinion of Anthroposophy out of the literal meaning of the word. And they take it to be some kind of backwoods' sect; whereas it is merely that everything must have some name.

Anthroposophy grows truly out of all the sciences, and out of life and it was in no need of a name. But since in this terrestrial world men must have names for things, since a thing must have some name, it is called Anthroposophy. But just as you cannot deduce the scholar from the name Max Muller, neither can you conclude that because we give Anthroposophical religious instruction in the school, Anthroposophy is introduced in the way the other religious instruction is introduced from outside, — as though it were a competing sect.

No, indeed, I mean no offence in saying this, but others have taken us to task about it. The Anthroposophical instruction in religion is increasing: more and snore children come to it. And some children, even, have run away from the other religious instruction and come over to the Anthroposophical religion lessons. Thus it is quite understandable that people should say: What bad people these Anthroposophists are! They lead the children astray so that they abandon the catholic and evangelical (protestant) religion lessons and want to have their religious instruction there. We do all we can to restrain the children from coming, because it is extraordinarily difficult for us to find religion teachers in our own sphere. But, in spite of the fact that we have never arranged for this instruction except in response to requests from parents and the unconscious requests of the children themselves, — to my great distress, I might almost say: — the demand for this Anthroposophical religious instruction increases more and more. And now thanks to this Anthroposophical religious instruction the school has a wholly Christian character.

You can feel from the whole mood and being of the Waldorf School how a Christian character pervades all the teaching, how religion is alive there; — and this in spite of the fact that we never set out to proselytise in the Waldorf School or to connect it with any church movement or congregational sect. I have again and again to repeat: the Waldorf School principle is not a principle which founds a school to promote a particular philosophy of life, — it founds a school to embody certain educational methods. Its aims are to be achieved by methodical means, by a method based on knowledge of man. And its aim is to make of children human beings sound in body, free in soul, clear in spirit.

*     *     *

Let me now say a few words on the significance of Eurhythmy teaching and the educational value of eurhythmy for the child. In illustration of what I have to say I should like to use these figures made in the Dornach studio. They are artistic representations of the real content of eurhythmy. The immediate object of these figures is to help in the appreciation of artistic eurhythmy. But I shall be able to make use of them to explain some things in educational eurhythmy. Now, eurhythmy is essentially a visible speech, it is not miming, not pantomime, neither is it an art of dance. When a person sings or speaks he produces activity and movement in certain organs; this same movement which is inherent m the larynx and other speech organs is capable of being continued and manifested throughout the human being. In the speech organs the movements are arrested and repressed. For instance, an activity of the larynx which would issue in this movement (A) — where the wings of the larynx open outward — is submerged in status nascendi and transformed into a movement into which the meaning of speech can be put, — and into a movement which can pass out into the air and be heard. Here you have the original movement of A (ah), the inner, and essentially human movement — as we might call it —

Diagram
Click image for large view

This is the movement which comes from the whole man when he breaks forth in A (ah). Thus there goes to every utterance in speech and song a movement which is arrested in status nascendi. But it seeks issue in forms of movement made by the whole human being. These are the forms of utterance in movements, and they can be discovered.

Just as there are different forms of the larynx and other organs for A (ah), I (ee), L, M, so are there also corresponding movements and forms of movement. These forms of movement are therefore those expressions of will which otherwise are provided in the expressions of thought and will of speech and song. The thought element, the abstract part of thought in speech is here removed and all that is to be expressed is transposed into the movement. Hence eurhythmy is an art of movement, in every sense of the word. Just as you can hear the A so can you see it, just as you can hear the I so can you see it.

In these figures the form of the wood is intended to express the movement. The figures are made on a three colour principle. The fundamental colour here is the one which expresses the form of the movement. But just as feeling pervades the tones of speech, so feeling enters into the movement. We do not merely speak a sound, we colour it by feeling. We can also do this in eurhythmy. In this way a strong unconscious momentum plays into the eurhythmy. If the performer, the eurhythmist, can bring this feeling into his movements in an artistic way the onlookers will be affected by it as they watch the movements.

It should be borne in mind, moreover, that the veil which is worn serves to enhance the expression of feeling, it accompanies and moves to the feeling. This was brought out in the performance over there (Tr: e.g. at Keble College). And you see here (Tr: i.e. in the figures) the second colour — which comes mainly on the veils — represents the feeling nuance in the movement. Thus you have a first, fundamental colour expressing the movement itself, a second colour over it mainly falling on the veil, which expresses the nuance of feeling. But the eurhythmy performer must have the inner power to impart the feeling to his movement: just as it makes a difference whether I say to a person: Come to me (commandingly), or: Come to me (in friendly request). This is the nuance of feeling, gradation of feeling. What I say is different if I say: Come to me! (1) or: Come to me (2). In the same way this second colour, here expressed as blue on a foundation of green, which then continues over into the veil (Tr.: where it can show as pure blue), — this represents the feeling nuance in the language of eurhythmy.

And the third thing that is brought out is character, a strong element of will. This can only be introduced into eurhythmy when the performer is able to experience his own movements as he makes them and express them strongly in himself. The way a performer holds his head as he does eurhythmy makes a great difference to his appearance. Whether, for instance, he keeps the muscles on the left of the head taut, and those on the right slack — as is expressed here by means of the third colour. (Showing figure) You see here the muscles on the left of the head are somewhat tense, those on the right relaxed. You will observe how the third colour always indicates this here. Here you see the left side is contracted, and down over the mouth here; here (in another figure) the forehead is contracted, the muscles of the forehead are contracted. This, you see, sets the tone of the whole inner character, — this that rays out from this slight contracting: for this slight contraction sends rays throughout the organism. Thus the art of eurhythmy is really composed of the movement, expressed in the fundamental colour; of the feeling nuance, expressed by the second colour, and of this element of will; — indeed the element of the whole art is will, but will is here emphasised in a special way.

Where the object is to exhibit the features of eurhythmy those parts only of the human being are selected which are characteristic of eurhythmy. If we had figures here with beautifully painted noses and eyes and beautiful mouths, they might be charming paintings; but for eurhythmy that is not the point; what you see painted, modelled or carved here is solely what belongs to the art of eurhythmy in the human being doing eurhythmy.

A human being performing eurhythmy has no need to make a special face. That does not matter. Naturally, it goes without saying, a normal and sound eurhythmist would not make a disagreeable face when making a kindly movement, but this would be the same in speaking. No art of facial expression independent of eurhythmic expression is aimed at: For instance, a performer can make the A movement by turning the axels of his eyes outwards. That is allowable, that is eurhythmic. But it would not do if someone were to make special oeilades (“Kinkerlitchen,” we call them) as is done in miming; these oeilades, which are often in special demand in miming, would here be a grimace. In eurhythmy everything must be eurhythmic.

Thus we have here a form of art which shows only that part of man which is eurhythmy, all else is left out; and thus we get an artistic impression. For each art can only express what it has to express through its own particular medium. A statue cannot be made to speak; thus you must bring out the expression of soul you want through the shaping of the mouth and the whole face. Thus it would have been no good in this case, either, to have painted human beings naturalistically; what had to be painted was an expression of the immediately eurhythmic.

Naturally, when I speak of veils this does not mean that one can change the veil with every letter; but one comes to find, by trying out different feeling nuances for a poem, and entering into the mood of the poem, — that a whole poem has an A mood, or a B mood. Then one can carry out the whole poem rightly in one veil. The same holds good of the colour. Here for every letter I have put the veil form, colour, etc. which go together. There must be a certain fundamental key in a poem. This tone is given by the colour of the veil, and in general by the whole colour combination; and this has to be retained throughout the poem, — otherwise the ladies would have to be continually changing veils, constantly throwing off the veils, putting on other dresses, — and things would be even more complicated than they are already and people would say they understood even less But actually if one once has the fundamental key one can maintain it throughout the whole poem, making the changes from one letter to another, from one syllable to another from one mood to another by means of the movements.

Now since my aim to-day is a pedagogic one, I have here set out these figures in the order in which children learn the sounds. And the first sound the children learn, when they are quite young, is the sound A. And they continue in this order, approximately, — for naturally where children are concerned many digressions occur, — but on the whole the children get to know the vowels in this order: A, E, I, 0, U, the normal order. And then, when the children have to practice the visible speech of eurhythmy, when they come to do it in this same order, it is for them like a resurrection of what they felt when they first learned the sounds of speech as little children, — a resurrection, a rebirth at another stage. In this language of eurhythmy the child experiences what he had experienced earlier. It affirms the power of the word in the child through the medium of the whole being.

Then the children learn the consonants in this order: M.B.P.D.T.L.N; — there should also be an NG here, as in sing, it has not yet been made —; then F.H.G.S.R. R, that mysterious letter, which properly has three forms in human speech, is the last one for children to do perfectly. There is a lip R, a palatal R, and an R spoken right at the back (Tr: a gutteral R).

Thus, what the child learns in speech in a part of his organism, in his speaking or singing organism, can be carried over into the whole being and developed into a visible speech.

If there should be a sufficient interest for this expressive art we could make more figures; for instance Joy, Sorrow, Antipathy, Sympathy and other things which are all part of eurhythmy, not the grammar only, but rhetoric, too, comes into its own in eurhythmy. We could make figures for all these. Then people would see how this spiritual-psychic activity, which not only influences the functions of man's physical body but develops both his spiritual-psychic and his organic bodily nature, has a very definite value both in education and as an art.

As to these eurhythmy figures, they also serve in the study of eurhythmy as a help to the student's memory — for do not suppose that eurhythmy is so easy that it can be learned in a few hours, — eurhythmy must be thoroughly studied; these figures then are useful to students for practising eurhythmy and for going more deeply into their art. You can see there is a very great deal in the forms themselves, though they are quite simply carved and painted.

I wished to-day to speak of the art of eurhythmy in so far as it forms part of the educational principle of the Waldorf School.




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