[RSArchive Icon]
Rudolf Steiner Archive Section Name Rudolf Steiner Archive & e.Lib



Highlight Words

The Child's Changing Consciousness
and Waldorf Education

Schmidt Number: S-5240

On-line since: 15th January, 2015

T H E   C H I L D ' S   C H A N G I N G   C O N S C I O U S N E S S


Lecture Three

Diagram 19230417p01_image001

DORNACH, APRIL 17, 1923


Yesterday I pointed out that there is much more involved in learning to walk, speak, and think — the three most important activities of early childhood — than is apparent outwardly. I also indicated that it is impossible to observe the human being completely without distinguishing between what is internal and what is external. When considering the organization of the whole human being, who is made up of body, soul, and spirit, it is especially necessary to develop a refined faculty of discrimination, and this is particularly true in the field of education.

Let us first look at what is very simply called “learning to walk.” I have already mentioned that a part of this activity is connected with how the child establishes equilibrium in the surrounding physical world. The entire, lifelong relationship to static and dynamic forces is involved in this activity. Furthermore, we have seen how this seeking, this striving for balance, this differentiation of arm and hand movements from those of the legs and feet, also forms the basis for the child's faculty of speech. And how, arising out of this faculty, the new faculty of thinking is gradually born. However, in this dynamic system of forces that the child takes hold of in learning how to walk, there lives yet something else that is of a fundamentally different character. I noted this briefly yesterday, but now we must consider it more fully.

You must always bear in mind that, pre-eminently during the first stage of childhood, but also up to the change of teeth, the child is one big sense organ. This is what makes children receptive to everything that comes from their surroundings. But it also causes them to recreate inwardly everything that is going on in their environment. One could say — to choose just one particular sense organ — that a young child is all eye. Just as the eye receives stimuli from the external world and, in keeping with its organization, reproduces what is happening there, so human beings during the first period of life inwardly reproduce everything that happens around them.

But the child takes in what is thus coming from the environment with a specific, characteristic form of inner experience. For example, when seeing the father or the mother moving a hand or an arm, the child will immediately feel an impulse to make a similar movement. And so, by imitating the movements of others in the immediate environment, the usual irregular and fidgety movements of the baby gradually become more purposeful. In this way the child also learns to walk.

But we must not overemphasize the aspect of heredity in the acquisition of this faculty, because this constant reference to heredity is merely a fashion in contemporary natural-scientific circles. Whether a child first puts down the heel or the toes when walking is also is due to imitating the father, mother, or anyone else who is close. Whether a child is more inclined to imitate one parent or the other depends on how close the connection is with the particular person, the affinity “in between the lines” of life, if I may put it this way. An exceedingly fine psychological-physiological process is happening here that cannot be recognized by the blunt tools of today's theories of heredity. To express it more pictorially: Just as the finer particles fall through the meshes of a sieve while the coarser ones are retained, so does the sieve of the modern world-view allow the finer elements of what is actually happening to slip through. In this way only the coarser similarities between child and father, or child and mother, only the “rough and ready” side of life is reckoned with, disregarding life's finer and more subtle points. The teacher and educator, however, need a trained eye for what is specifically human.

Now it would be natural to assume that it must surely be deep love that motivates a child to imitate one particular person. But if one looks at how love is revealed in later life, even in a very loving person, one will come to realize that if one maintains that the child chooses by means of love, then what is actually happening has not been fully appreciated. For in reality, the child chooses to imitate out of an even higher motive than that of love. The child is prompted by what one might, in later life, call religious or pious devotion. Although this may sound paradoxical, it is nevertheless true. The child's entire sentient-physical behavior in imitation flows from a physical yearning to become imbued with feelings found in later life only in deeply religious devotion or during participation in a religious ritual. This soul attitude is strongest during the child's earliest years, and it continues, gradually declining, until the change of teeth. The physical body of a newborn baby is totally permeated by an inner need for deeply religious devotion. What we call love in later life is just a weakened form of this pious and devotional reverence.

It could be said that until the change of teeth the child is fundamentally an imitative being. But the kind of inner experience that pulses through the child's imitation as its very life blood — and here I must ask you not to misunderstand what I am going to say, for sometimes one has to resort to unfamiliar modes of expression to characterize something that has become alien to our culture — this is religion in a physical, bodily guise.

Until the change of teeth, the child lives in a kind of “bodily religion.” We must never underestimate the delicate influences (one could also call them imponderable influences) that, only through a child's powers of perception, emanate from the environment, summoning an urge to imitate. We must in no way underestimate this most fundamental and important aspect of the child's early years. Later on we will see the tremendous significance that this has for both the principles and practical methods of education.

When contemporary natural science examines such matters, the methods used appear very crude, to say the least. To illustrate what I mean, I would like to tell you the case of the mathematician horses that, for awhile, caused a sensation in Germany. I have not seen these Dusseldorf horses myself, but I was in a position to carefully observe the horse belonging to Herr von Osten of Berlin, who played such a prominent part in this affair. It was truly amazing to witness how adept his horse was at simple mathematical calculations. The whole thing caused a great sensation and an extensive treatise dealing with this phenomenon was quickly published by a university lecturer, who came to the following conclusion.

This horse possesses such an unusually fine sensibility that it can perceive the slightest facial expressions of its master, Herr von Osten, as he stands next to it. These facial expressions are so fine that even a human being could not detect them. And when Herr von Osten gives his horse an arithmetical task, he naturally knows the answer in his head. He communicates this answer to the horse with very subtle facial expressions that the horse can perceive. In this way it can “stamp” the answers on the ground.

If, however, one's thinking is even more accurate than that of contemporary mathematical sciences, one might ask this lecturer how he could prove his theory. It would be impossible for him to do so. My own observations, on the other hand, led me to a different conclusion. I noticed that in his grey-brown coat Herr von Osten had large, bulging pockets out of which he took sugar lumps and small sweets that he shoved into the horse's mouth during his demonstrations. This ensured an especially close and intimate relationship, a physically-based affinity between steed and master. And due to this intimate physical relationship, this deep-seated attachment, which was constantly being renewed, a very close soul communication between a man and a horse came about. It was a far more intimate process than the horse's supposedly more intellectual and outward observation of its master's facial expressions. Indeed, a real communication from soul to soul had taken place.

If it is possible to observe such a phenomenon even in an animal, then you can comprehend the kind of soul communication that can exist in a little child, especially if permeated by deeply religious devotion. You must realize how everything the child makes its own grows from this religious mood, which is still fully centered within the physical body. Anyone who can observe how the child, with its inner attitude of religious surrender, surrenders to the influences of the surrounding world, and anyone who can discern in all these processes what the child individually pours into the static and dynamic forces, will discover precisely in this physical response the inherent impulses of its later destiny. However strange it may sound, what Goethe's friend Knebel in his old age once said to Goethe is still true [Karl Ludwig von Knebel (1744–1834) German poet and tutor at the Court of Weimar.]:

Anyone who looks back over one's past life will find that, when we have experienced a significant event and then look back at what led up to it, it becomes apparent that we were steered toward it. We find that it was not just one previous step, but a whole series of previous steps, that now make it appear as if we had been striving toward the decisive event from a deep inner soul impulse.

If such an event is connected with someone else, the person concerned will think (provided one can extricate oneself from the turmoil of life and perceive the finer nuances of physical existence): This is not an illusion, or something I have dreamed up; but if, at a decisive moment in life, I have found another human being with whom I am more intimately connected than with other people, then I really have been seeking this person, whom I must have already known long before we met for the first time.

The most intimate matters in life are closely connected with how the child finds its way into the static and dynamic realm. If one can develop a faculty for observing such things, one will find that an individual's destiny already begins to be revealed in a strangely sense-perceptible form by how a child begins to place the feet on the ground, in how a child begins to bend the knees, or in the way a child begins to use the fingers. All of this is not merely outwardly or materially significant, but it reflects what is most spiritual in the human being.

When a child begins to speak, it adapts itself to a wider circle. In learning the mother tongue, this circle embraces all who share the same language. Now the child is no longer restricted to the narrow circle of people who provide a more intimate social background. In living into the mother tongue, the child also adapts to something broader than the static and dynamic forces. One could say that, in learning to speak, the child lives into its folk soul, into the genius of its mother tongue. And since language is thoroughly spiritual, the child still lives in something spiritual, but no longer in a spirituality only connected with the individual human being, something that is a matter of individual destiny, but something that receives the child into the wider circle of life.

When the child learns to think — well, with thinking we do not remain in the realm of the individual at all. In New Zealand, for example, people think exactly the same as we do here today. It is the entire Earth realm that we adapt ourselves to when as children we develop thinking from speech. In speaking we still remain within a smaller circle of life. In thinking, we enter the realm of humanity as a whole. This is how the child's life circles are expanded through walking, speaking, and thinking. And through discrimination one will find the fundamental links between the way a child adapts itself to the of static and dynamic forces, and its future destiny during earthly life.

Here we see the work of what we have been calling in anthroposophy the I-being of the human individual. For us, this term does not imply anything abstract, it merely serves to pinpoint a specifically human feature. Similarly, through the medium of language, we see something emerge in the human being that is entirely different from the individual I. Therefore we say that in language the human astral body is working. This astral body can also be observed in the animal world, but there it does not work in an outward direction. In the animal it is connected more with the inner being, creating the animal's form. We also create our form, but we take away a small part of this formative element and use it to develop language. In speech the astral body is actively engaged. And in thinking, which has this universal quality and is also specifically different from the other two faculties, something is happening where we could say that the human etheric body is working. Only when we come to human sense perception do we find the entire physical body in collaboration.

I do not mind if, for the time being, you treat these statements more or less as definitions. At this point it is not an important issue, for we are not interested in splitting philosophical hairs. We are merely trying to indicate what life itself reveals. And this needs to be based on a knowledge of the human being that can lead us to a true form of education, one that encompasses both theory and practice.

When looking at such a progression of development, we find that the human being's highest member, the I, is the first to emerge, followed by the astral body and etheric body. Furthermore, we can see how the soul and spiritual organization, working in the I, astral, and etheric bodies, is working on the physical body until the change of teeth. All three members are working in the physical body.

The second dentition announces a great change that affects the child's whole life. We can first observe it in a particular phenomenon. What would you say is the most striking factor of early childhood? It is, as I have described it just now, the child's physical-religious devotion to its environment. This is really the most decisive characteristic. Then the child loses the baby teeth, which is followed by years of developing a certain soulspiritual constitution, particularly in the years between the change of teeth and puberty.

You see, what has been working physically during the first period of life will later, after the child has gone through puberty, reappear transformed as thought. The young child cannot in any way yet develop the kind of thinking that leads to an experience of religious devotion. During this time of childhood — first before the change of teeth, but also continuing until puberty — these two things keep each other at a distance, so to speak. The child's thinking, even between the change of teeth and puberty, does not yet take hold of the religious element. One could compare this situation with certain alpine rivers that have their sources high up in the mountains and that, on their way down, suddenly seem to disappear as they flow through underground caves, only to reappear lower down along their further courses. What appears as a natural religious reverence during the years leading to the change of teeth withdraws inward, takes on an entirely transformed soul quality, and seems to disappear altogether. Only later in life, when the human being gains the capacity to consciously experience a religious mood, does it reappear, taking hold of a person's thinking and ideation.

If one can observe such transformations, one will find external observation even more meaningful. As I mentioned already in the first lecture, I am not at all against the more external forms of observation, which are fully justified. Yet, at the same time, we must realize that these methods cannot offer a foundation for the art of education. Experimental child psychology, for example, has discovered the curious phenomenon that children whose parents anxiously try to engender a religious attitude, who try to drum religion into their children, such children achieve poor results in their religion lessons at school. In other words, it has been established that the correlation coefficient between the children's accomplishments in religious instruction and the religious attitude of their parents is very low during the years spent in primary education.

Yet one look at human nature is enough to discover reasons for this phenomenon. No matter how often such parents may talk about their own religious attitude, no matter what beautiful words they may speak, it has no meaning for the child at all. They simply pass the child by. For anything directed to the child's reason, even if formulated in terms intended to appeal to the child's feelings, will fail to have any impact, at least until the time of the change of teeth. The only way of avoiding such heedlessness is for the adults around the child, through their actions and general behavior, to give the child the possibility to imitate and absorb a genuine religious element right into the finest articulation of the vascular system. This is then worked on inwardly, approximately between the seventh and fourteenth year. Like the alpine river flowing underground, it will surface again at puberty in the form of a capacity for conceptualization.

So we should not be surprised if a generous helping of outer piety and religious sentiment aimed at the child's well-being will simply miss the mark. Only the actions performed in the child's vicinity will speak. To express it somewhat paradoxically, the child will ignore words, moral admonitions, and even the parents' attitudes, just as the human eye will ignore something that is colorless. Until the change of teeth, the child is an imitator through and through.

Then, with the change of teeth, the great change occurs. What was formerly a physically based surrender to a religious mood ceases to exist. And so we should not be surprised when the child, who has been totally unaware of any innate religious attitude, becomes a different being between the change of teeth and puberty. But what I have pointed out just now can reveal that, only at puberty, the child reaches an intellectual mode of comprehension. Earlier, its thinking cannot yet comprehend intellectual concepts, because the child's thinking, between the change of teeth and puberty, can only unite with what is pictorial. Pictures work on the senses. Altogether, during the first period of life ending with the change of teeth, pictures of all the activities being performed within its environment work on the child. Then, with the onset of the second set of teeth, the child begins to take in the actual content presented in pictorial form. And we must pour this pictorial element into everything that we approach the child with, into everything we bring to the child through language.

I have characterized what comes toward the child through the element of statics and dynamics. But through the medium of language a much wider, an immensely varied element, comes within reach of the child. After all, language is only a link in a long chain of soul experiences. Every experience belonging to the realm of language has an artistic nature. Language itself is an artistic element, and we have to consider this artistic element above everything else in the time between the change of teeth and puberty.

Don't imagine for a moment that with these words I am advocating a purely esthetic approach to education, or that I want to exchange fundamental elements of learning with all kinds of artificial or esthetically contrived methods, even if these may appear artistically justified. Far from it! I have no intention of replacing the generally uncultured element, so prevalent in our present civilization, with a markedly Bohemian attitude toward life. (For the sake of our Czech friends present, I should like to stress that I do not in any way associate a national or geographical trait with the term Bohemian. I use it only in its generally accepted sense, denoting the happy-golucky attitude of people who shun responsibilities, who disregard accepted rules of conduct, and who do not take life seriously.) The aim is not to replace the pedantic attitude that has crept into our civilization with a disregard of fundamental rules or with a lack of earnestness.

Something entirely different is required when one is faced with children between the change of teeth and puberty. Here one has to consider that at this age their thinking is not yet logical, but has a completely pictorial character. True to nature, such children reject a logical approach. They want to live in pictures. Highly intelligent adults make little impression on children aged seven, nine, eleven, or even thirteen. At that age, they feel indifferent toward intellectual accomplishment. On the other hand, adults with an inner freshness (which does not, however, exclude a sense of discretion), people of a friendly and kindly disposition do make a deep impression on children. People whose voices have a ring of tenderness, as if their words were caressing the child, expressing approval and praise, reach the child's soul. This personal impact is what matters, because with the change of teeth the child no longer surrenders solely to surrounding activities. Now a new openness awakens to what people are actually saying, to what adults say with the natural authority they have developed. This reveals the most characteristic element inherent in the child between the change of teeth and puberty.

Certainly you would not expect me, who more than thirty years ago wrote the book Intuitive Thinking: A Philosophy of Freedom, to stand here and plead authoritarian principles. Nevertheless, insofar as children between the change of teeth and puberty are concerned, authority is absolutely necessary. It is a natural law in the life of the souls of children. Children at this particular stage in life who have not learned to look up with a natural sense of surrender to the authority of the adults who brought them up, the adults who educated them, cannot grow into a free human beings. Freedom is won only through a voluntary surrender to authority during childhood.

Just as during the first period of life children imitate all of the surrounding activities, so also during the second period of life they follow the spoken word. Of course, this has to be understood in a general way. Immensely powerful spiritual substance flows into children through language, which, according to their nature, must remain characteristically pictorial. If one observes how, before the change of teeth, through first learning to speak, children dreamily follow everything that will become fundamental for later life, and how they wake up only after the change of teeth, then one can gain a picture of what meets children through the way we use language in their presence during the second period of life.

Therefore we must take special care in how, right at this stage, we work on children through the medium of language.

Everything we bring must speak to them, and if this does not happen, they will not understand. If, for example, you factually describe a plant to a young child, it is like expecting the eye to understand the word red. The eye can understand only the color red, not the word. A child cannot understand an ordinary description of a plant. But as soon as you tell the child what the plant is saying and doing, there will be immediate understanding. The child also has to be treated with an understanding of human nature. We will hear more about this later when we discuss the practical aspects of teaching. Here I am more concerned with presenting a basic outline.

And so we see how an image-like element pervades and unites what we meet in the child's threefold activity of walking, speaking, and thinking. Likewise, activities occurring around the child, which were at first perceived in a dreamy way, are also transformed, strangely enough, into pictures during this second period between the change of teeth and puberty. The child begins to dream, as it were, about the surrounding activities, whereas during the first period of life these outer activities were followed very soberly and directly, and simply imitated. And the thoughts of the child are not yet abstract, nor yet logical; they are also still pictures. Between the second dentition and puberty, children live in what comes through language, with its artistic and pictorial element. Thus, only what is immersed in imagery will reach the child. This is why the development of a child's memory is particularly strong at this age.

And now, once again, I have to say something that will make learned psychologists shudder inwardly and give them metaphorical goose flesh. That is, children receive their memory only with the change of teeth. The cause for such goose flesh is simply that these things are not observed properly. Someone might say, “What appears as memory in a child after the change of teeth surely must have already existed before, even more strongly, because the child then had an inborn memory, and all kinds of things could be remembered even better than later on.” This would be about as correct as saying that a dog, after all, is really a wolf, and that there is no difference between the two. And if one pointed out that a dog has experienced entirely different living conditions and that, although descended from the wolf, it is no longer a wolf, the reply might be, “Well, a dog is only a domesticated version of a wolf, for the wolf's bite is worse than the dog's bite.” This kind of thing would be somewhat analogous to saying that the memory of a child is stronger prior to the change of teeth than afterward. One must be able to observe actual reality.

What is this special kind of memory in the young child that later memory is descended from? It is still an inner habit. When taking in the spoken word, a refined inner habit is formed in the child, who absorbs everything through imitation. And out of this earlier, specially developed habit — which still has a more physical quality — a soul habit is formed when the child begins the change of teeth. It is this habit, formed in the soul realm, that is called memory. One must differentiate between habit that has entered the soul life and habit in the physical realm, just as one has to distinguish between dog and wolf — otherwise one cannot comprehend what is actually happening.

You can also feel the link between the pictorial element that the child's soul had been living within, as well as the newly emerging ensouled habit, the actual memory, which works mainly through images as well.

Everything depends, in all these matters, on keen observation of human nature. It will open one's eyes to the incisive turning point during the change of teeth. One can see this change especially clearly by observing pathological conditions in children. Anyone who has an eye for these things knows that children's diseases look very different from adult diseases. As a rule, even the same outer symptoms in an ill child have a different origin than those in an adult, where they may appear similar, but are not necessarily the same. In children the characteristic forms of illness all stem from the head, from which they affect the remaining organism. They are caused by a kind of overstimulation of the nerve-sense system. This is true even in cases of children who have measles or scarlet fever.

If one can observe clearly, it will be found that when walking, speaking, and thinking exert their separate influences, these activities also work from the head downward. At the change of teeth, the head has been the most perfectly molded and shaped inwardly. After this, it spreads inner forces to the remaining organism. This is why children's diseases radiate downward from the head. Because of the way these illnesses manifest, one will come to see that they are a reaction to conditions of irritation or overstimulation, particularly in the nervesense system. Only by realizing this will one find the correct pathology in children's illnesses. If you look at the adult you will see that illnesses radiate mainly from the abdominal-motor system — that is, from the opposite pole of the human being.

Between the age when the child is likely to suffer from an overstimulation of the nerve-sense system and in the years following sexual maturity — that is, between the change of teeth and puberty — are the years of compulsory schooling. And amid all of this, a kinship lives between the child's soul life and the pictorial realm, as I have described it to you. Outwardly, this is represented by the rhythmic system with its interweaving of breathing and blood circulation. The way that breathing and blood circulation become inwardly harmonized, the way that the child breathes at school, and the way that the breathing gradually adapts to the blood circulation, all of this generally happens between the ninth and tenth year. At first, until the ninth year, the child's breathing is in the head, until, through an inner struggle within its organism, a kind of harmony between the heartbeat and the breathing is established. This is followed by a time when the blood circulation predominates, and this general change occurs in the physical realm and in the realm of the child's soul.

After the change of teeth is complete, all of the forces working through the child are striving toward inwardly mobile imagery, and we will support this picture-forming element if we use a pictorial approach in whatever we bring to the child. And then, between the ninth and tenth years, something truly remarkable begins to occur; the child feels a greater relationship to the musical element. The child wants to be held by music and rhythms much more than before. We may observe how the child, before the ninth and tenth years, responds to music — how the musical element lives in the child as a shaping force, and how, as a matter of course, the musical forces are active in the inner sculpting of the physical body. Indeed, if we notice how the child's affinity to music is easily expressed in eagerly performed dance-like movements — then we are bound to recognize that the child's real ability to grasp music begins to evolve between the ninth and tenth years. It becomes clearly noticeable at this time. Naturally, these things do not fall into strictly separate categories, and if one can comprehend them completely, one will also cultivate a musical approach before the ninth year, but this will be done in the appropriate way. One will tend in the direction suggested just now. Otherwise the child aged nine to ten would get too great a shock if suddenly exposed to the full force of the musical element, if the child were gripped by musical experiences without the appropriate preparation.

We can see from this that the child responds to particular outer manifestations and phenomena with definite inner demands, through developing certain inner needs. In recognizing these needs, knowledge does not remain theoretical, but becomes pedagogical instinct. One begins to see how here one particular process is in a state of germination and there another is budding within the child. Observing children becomes instinctive, whereas other methods lead to theories that can be applied only externally and that remain alien to the child. There is no need to give the child sweets to foster intimacy. This has to be accomplished through the proper approach to the child's soul conditions. But the most important element is the inner bond between teacher and pupil during the classroom time. It is the crux of the matter.

Now it also needs to be said that any teacher who can see what wants to overflow from within the child with deep inner necessity will become increasingly modest, because such a teacher will realize how difficult it is to reach the child's being with the meager means available. Nevertheless, we shall see that there are good reasons for continuing our efforts as long as we proceed properly, especially since all education is primarily a matter of self-education. We should not be disheartened because the child at each developmental stage reacts specifically to what the external world — that is we, the teachers — wishes to bring, even if this may assume the form of a certain inner opposition. Naturally, since consciousness has not awakened sufficiently at that age, the child is unaware of any inner resistance. In keeping with their own nature, children, having gone through the change of teeth, demand lesson content that has form and coloring that satisfies what is overflowing from their organisms. I will speak more about this later.

But one thing that children do not want — certainly not during the change of teeth — something they will reject with strong inner opposition — is to have to draw on a piece of paper, or on the chalkboard, a peculiar sign that looks like this: A, only to be told that this is supposed to sound the same as what would spontaneously come from one's own mouth [Ah!] when seeing something especially wonderful! [In German, the letter A is pronounced “ah” as in “father” or “star.” — TRANS.] For such a sign has nothing whatever to do with the inner experience of a child. When a child sees a combination of colors, feelings are immediately stimulated. But if one puts something in front of a child that looks like FATHER, expecting an association with what is known and loved as the child's own father, then the inner being of the child can feel only opposition.

How have our written symbols come about? Think about the ancient Egyptians with their hieroglyphs that still retained some similarity to what they were intended to convey. Ancient cuneiform writing also still had some resemblance to what the signs signified, although these were more expressive of the will-nature of the ancient people who used them, whereas the Egyptian hieroglyphs expressed more of a feeling approach. The forms of these ancient writings, especially when meant to be read, brought to mind the likeness of what they represented from the external world. But what would children make of such weird and ornate signs on the chalkboard? What could they have to do with their own fathers? And yet the young pupils are expected to learn and work with these apparently meaningless symbols. No wonder that something in the child becomes resentful.

When children are losing their baby teeth, they feel least connected with the kind of writing and reading prevalent in our present stage of civilization, because it represents the results of stylization and convention. Children, who have only recently come into the world, are suddenly expected to absorb the final results of all of the transformations that writing and reading have gone through. Even though nothing of the many stages of cultural progress that have evolved throughout the ages has yet touched the children, they are suddenly expected to deal with signs that have lost any connection between our modern age and ancient Egypt. Is it any wonder, then, if children feel out of touch?

On the other hand, if you introduce children to the world of number in an appropriate way for their age, you will find that they can enter the new subject very well. They will also be ready to appreciate simple geometric forms. In the first lecture I have already noted how the child's soul prepares to deal with patterns and forms. Numbers can also be introduced now, since with the change of teeth a hardening of the inner system is occurring. Through this hardening, forces are being released and expressed outwardly in how the child works with numbers, drawing, and so on. But reading and writing are activities that are, initially, very alien to children at around the seventh year. Please do not conclude from what I have said that children should not be taught to read and write. Of course they must learn this because, after all, we do not educate the young for our benefit, but for life. The point is, how should this be done without countering human nature? We shall go into this question more thoroughly during the next few days. But, generally speaking, it is good if educators realize how alien many things are to a child's soul, things that we take from contemporary life and teach because we feel it is necessary for the children to know them.

This must not lead us into the opposite error of wanting to create an esthetic form of education, however, or declaring that all learning should be child's play. This is one of the worst slogans, because such an attitude would turn children into the kind of people who only play at life. Only dilettantes in the field of education would allow themselves to be taken in by such a phrase. The point is not to select certain tidbits out of play activities that are pleasing to an adult, but to connect with what is actually happening when a child is playing.

And here I must ask you a pertinent question. Is play mere fun or is it a serious matter for children? To a healthy child, playing is in no way just a pleasurable pastime, but a completely serious activity. Play flows earnestly from a child's entire organism. If your way of teaching can capture the child's seriousness in play, you will not merely teach in a playful way — in the ordinary sense — but you will nurture the earnestness of a child's play. What matters at all times is the accurate observation of life. Therefore it can be rather regrettable if well-meaning people try to introduce their pet ideas into the one branch of life that demands the closest observation of all — that is, education. Our intellectual culture has landed us in a situation where most adults no longer have any understanding of childhood, because a child's soul is entirely different from that of a thoroughly intellectualized adult. We must begin by finding the key to childhood again. This means that we must permeate ourselves with the knowledge that, during the first period of life until the change of teeth, the entire behavior of a child reveals a physically anchored religious quality; and after this, between the change of teeth and puberty, a child's soul life is attuned to all that has a pictorial quality, and it undergoes many artistic and esthetic changes during this period of life.

When a child has reached puberty, the astral body, which has been working through language until this point, now becomes free to work independently. Previously, the forces that work through the medium of language were needed to build up the inner organization of the child's body. But after puberty, these forces (which work also in many other spheres — in everything that gives form, in relation to both plastic and musical forms) become liberated, and are used for the activity of thinking. Only then does the child become an intellectualizing and logically thinking person.

It is clear that what flashes, streams, and surges through language in this way, delivers a final jolt to the physical body before becoming liberated. Look at a boy who is at this age and listen to how his voice changes during puberty. This change is just as decisive as the change of teeth in the seventh year. When the larynx begins to speak with a different vocal undertone, it is the astral body's last thrust — that is, the forces flashing and working through speech — in the physical body. A corresponding change also occurs in the female organism, but in a different way, not in the larynx. It is brought about through other organs. Having gone through these changes, the human being has become sexually mature.

And now the young person enters that period of life when what previously radiated into the body from the nerve-sense system is no longer the determining factor. Now it is the motor system, the will system — so intimately connected with the metabolic system — that takes the leading role. The metabolism lives in physical movements. Pathology in adults can show us how, at this later age, illnesses radiate mainly from the metabolic system. (Even migraine is a metabolic illness.) We can see how in adults illnesses no longer spread from the head, as they do in children. It does not matter so much where an illness manifests, what matters is to know from where it radiates into the body.

But during grade school (from about six to fourteen) the rhythmic system is the most actively engaged. During this time, everything living within the nerve-sense system on the one hand, and within the metabolic-limb system on the other, is balanced by the rhythmic system. This balancing activity of the rhythmic system encompasses what works through our physical movement, where processes of combustion continually occur, and are also balanced by the metabolism. This balancing activity also works in the metabolism's digestion of what will eventually enter the bloodstream and take the form of circulation. This all comes together in the breathing process, which has a rhythmical nature, in order to work back again finally into the nerve-sense process. These are the two polarities in human nature. The nerve-sense system on the one hand, the metabolic-limb system on the other, with the rhythmic system in between.

We have to consider this rhythmic system above all when dealing with children between the change of teeth and puberty. It is fully expressed during these years, and it is the healthiest of the human systems; it would have to be subjected to gross external interference to become ill.

In this respect, modern methods of observation again take the wrong course. Think of the recent scientific tests that study fatigue in children by means of fatigue coefficients. Let me repeat again at this point, to avoid misunderstandings, that I have no intention of running down modern methods of scientific investigation as such, nor of heaping scorn on its methods. In these experiments various degrees of fatigue are measured, for example, in gym or arithmetic classes, and so on. There is nothing wrong in discovering such factors, but they must not form the basis of one's teaching. One cannot arrange a timetable according to these coefficients because the real task of a teacher is very different. At this stage of childhood, the aim should be to work with the one system in the human being that never tires throughout a person's whole life. The only system prone to fatigue is the metabolic and limb system. This system does tire, and it passes its fatigue to the other systems. But I ask you, is it possible for the rhythmic system to tire? No, it must never tire, because if the heart were not tirelessly beating throughout life, without suffering fatigue, and if breathing were not continuous without becoming exhausted, we simply could not live. The rhythmic system does not tire.

If we tire our pupils too much through one or another activity, it shows that, during the age under consideration — between seven and fourteen years — we have not appealed strongly enough to the rhythmic system. This middle system again lives entirely in the pictorial realm and is an outer expression of it. If you fail to present arithmetic or writing lessons imaginatively, you will tire your pupils. But if, out of an inner freshness and at a moment's notice, you can call up powers of imagery in the children, you will not tire them. If they nevertheless begin to droop, the source of their fatigue is in their motor system. For example, the chair that a child sits on might be pressing too hard, or the pen may not fit the hand properly. There is no need to calculate through pedagogical psychology how long a child can engage in arithmetic without undue strain. The important thing is that the teacher knows how to teach the various subjects in harmony with the pupils rhythmic system, and how, through knowledge of the human being, the lesson content can be presented in the appropriate form.

This can become possible only when we recognize that the pupil awakens to the intellectual side of life only with the advent of sexual maturity, and that between the change of teeth and puberty the teachers have to guide through personal example as they bring to their pupils what they wish to unfold within them. Consequently, a pedagogy that springs from a true knowledge of the human being has to be largely a matter of the teachers' own inner attitudes — a pedagogy destined to work on the teachers' own moral attitudes. A more drastic expression of this would be: The children in themselves are all right, but the adults are not! What is needed above all has already been put into words at the end of the first lecture. Instead of talking about how we should treat children, we should strive toward a knowledge of how we, as teachers and educators, ought to conduct ourselves. In our work we need forces of the heart. Yet it is not good enough to simply declare that, instead of addressing ourselves to the intellect of our pupils we now must appeal to their hearts, in both principle and method. What we really need — and this I wish to emphasize once more — is that we ourselves have our hearts in our pedagogy.




Last Modified: 15-Nov-2017
The Rudolf Steiner Archive is maintained by:
The e.Librarian: elibrarian@elib.com
[Spacing]