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Education for Adolescents
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Education for Adolescents
Rudolf Steiner Archive Document
A lecture, hitherto untranslated given at Stuttgart on June 21, 1922.
Published in The Journal for Anthroposophy, Spring 1979. In a few cases the
repetitions appropriate for spoken style have been omitted and sentences
condensed. It is the fifth of nine lectures in the volume Education and
Instruction .... In the collected edition of Rudolf Steiner's works, the
volume containing the German texts is entitled, Erziehung und Unterricht
Aus Menschenerkenntnis, (Vol. 302a in the Bibliographic Survey, 1961).
Translation by C.B.
By Rudolf Steiner
Translated by Clifford Bax
Bn 302a.2; GA 302a; CW 302a.
A lecture, hitherto untranslated given at Stuttgart on June 21, 1922.
Published in The Journal for Anthroposophy, Spring 1979. In a few cases
the repetitions appropriate for spoken style have been omitted and
sentences condensed. It is the fifth of nine lectures in the volume
Education and Instruction ....
In the collected edition of Rudolf Steiner's works, the volume containing
the German texts is entitled,
Erziehung und Unterricht Aus Menschenerkenntnis,
(Vol. 302a in the Bibliographic Survey, 1961). Translation by C.B.
This lecture series is presented here with the kind permission
of the Rudolf Steiner Nachlassverwaltung, Dornach, Switzerland.
From Bn 302a.2, GA 302a, CW 302a.
Some editions and/or translations of this book are available for purchase from:
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Thanks to an anonymous donation, this Lecture has been made available.
Education for Adolescents
Journal for Anthroposophy, Spring 1979
This text consists of excerpts from a lecture given
in Stuttgart on June 21, 1922. In a few cases the repetitions
appropriate for spoken style have been omitted and sentences condensed.
Translation by C.B.
When children come to the age of puberty, it is necessary to awaken
within them an extraordinarily great interest in the world outside of
themselves. Through the whole way in which they are educated, they
must be led to look out into the world around them and into all its
laws, its course, causes and effects, into men's intentions and goals
— not only into human beings, but into everything, even into a
piece of music, for instance. All this must be brought to them in such
a way that it can resound on and on within them — so that
questions about nature, about the cosmos and the entire world, about
the human soul, questions of history — so that riddles arise in
their youthful souls.
When the astral body
[A term used to designate all that is sentient in man
and in animals.]
becomes free at puberty, forces are freed which
can now be used for formulating these riddles. But when these riddles
of the world and its manifestations do not arise in young
souls, then these same forces are changed into something else.
When such forces become free, and it has not been possible to awaken
the most intensive interest in such world-riddles, then these energies
transform themselves into what they become in most young people today.
They change in two directions into urges of an instinctive kind: first
into delight in power, and second into eroticism.
Unfortunately pedagogy does not now consider this delight in power and
the eroticism of young people to be the secondary results of changes
in things that, until the age of 20 or 21, really ought to go in an
altogether different direction, but considers them to be natural
elements in the human organism at puberty. If young people are rightly
educated, there should be no need whatsoever to speak about love of
power and eroticism to them at this age. If such things have to be
spoken about during these years, this is in itself something that
smacks of illness. Our entire pedagogical art and science is becoming
ill because again and again the highest value is attributed to these
questions. A high value is put upon them for no other reason than that
people are powerless today — have grown more and more powerless
in the age of a materialistic world-conception — to inspire true
interest in the world, the world in the widest sense ...
When we do not have enough interest in the world around us, then we
are thrown back into ourselves. Taken all in all, we have to say that
if we look at the chief damages created by modern civilization, they
arise primarily because people are far too concerned with themselves
and do not usually spend the larger part of their leisure time in
concern for the world but busy themselves with how they feel and what
gives them pain ... And the least favorable time of life to be
self-occupied in this way is during the ages between 14, 15 and 21
The capacity for forming judgments is blossoming at this time and
should be directed toward world-interrelationships in every field. The
world must become so all-engrossing to young people that they simply
do not turn their attention away from it long enough to be constantly
occupied with themselves. For, as everyone knows, as far as subjective
feelings are concerned, pain only becomes greater the more we think
about it. It is not the objective damage but the pain of it that
increases as we think more about it. In certain respects, the very
best remedy for the overcoming of pain is to bring yourself, if you
can, not to think about it. Now there develops in young people just
between 15, 16 and 20, 21, something not altogether unlike pain. This
adaptation to the conditions brought about through the freeing of the
astral body from the physical is really a continual experience of
gentle pain. And this kind of experience immediately makes us tend
towards self-preoccupation, unless we are sufficiently directed away
from it and toward the world outside ourselves ...
If a teacher makes a mistake while teaching a 10 or 12 year old, then,
as far as the mutual relationship between pupil and teacher is
concerned, this does not really make such a very great difference. By
this I do not mean that you should make as many mistakes as possible
with children of this age ...
The feeling for the teacher's authority will flag perhaps for a while,
but such things will be forgotten comparatively quickly, in any case
much sooner than certain injustices are forgotten at this age. On the
other hand, when you stand in front of students between 14, 15 and 20,
21, you simply must not expose your latent inadequacies and so make a
fool of yourself ...
If a student is unable to formulate a question which he experiences
inwardly, the teacher must be capable of doing this himself, so that
he can bring about such a formulation in class, and he must be able to
satisfy the feeling that then arises in the students when the question
comes to expression. For if he does not do this, then when all that is
mirrored there in the souls of these young people goes over into the
world of sleep, into the sleeping condition, a body of detrimental,
poisonous substances is produced by the unformulated questions. These
poisons are developed only during the night, just when poisons ought
really to be broken down and transformed instead of created. Poisons
are produced that burden the brains of the young people when they go
to class, and gradually everything in them stagnates, becomes
stopped up. This must and can be avoided. But it can only
be avoided if the feeling is not aroused in the students: Now
again the teacher has failed to give us the right answer. He
really hasn't answered us at all. We can't get a satisfying answer out
of him. Those are the latent inadequacies, the self-exposures
that occur when the children have the feeling: The teacher just
isn't up to giving us the answers we need. And for this
inability, the personal capacities and incapacities of the teacher are
not the only determining factors, but rather the pedagogical method.
If we spend too much time pouring a mass of information over young
people at this age, or if we teach in such a way that they never come
to lift their doubts and questions into consciousness, then the
teacher — even though he is the more objective party —
exposes, even if indirectly, his latent in-adequacies ...
You see the teacher must, in full consciousness, be permeated through
and through with all this when he deals with the transition from the
ninth to the tenth grades, for it is just with the entire
transformation of the courses one gives that the pedagogy must concern
itself. If we have children of six or seven, then the course is
already set through the fact that they are entering school, and we do
not need to understand any other relationship to life. But when we
lead young people over from the ninth to the tenth grade, then we must
put ourselves into quite another life-condition. When this happens,
the children must say to themselves: Great thunder and
lightning! What's happened to the teacher! Up to now we've thought of
him as a pretty bright light who has plenty to say, but now he's
beginning to talk like more than a man. Why, the whole world speaks
out of him!
And when they feel the most intensive interest in particular world
questions and are put into the fortunate position of being able to
impart this to other young people, then the world speaks out of
them also. Out of a mood of this kind, verve (Schwung)
must arise. Verve is what teachers must bring to young people at this
age, verve which above all is directed towards imagination; for
although the students are developing the capacity to make judgments,
judgment is actually borne out of the powers of imagination. And if
you deal with the intellect intellectually, if you are not able to
deal with the intellect with a certain imagination, then you have
mis-played, you have missed the boat with them.
Young people demand imaginative powers; you must approach them with
verve, and with verve of a kind that convinces them. Scepticism is
something that you may not bring to them at this age, that is in the
first half of this life-period. The most damaging judgment for the
time between 14, 15 and 18 is one that implies in a pessimistically
knowledgeable way: That is something that cannot be known.
This crushes the soul of a child or a young person. It is more
possible after 18 to pass over to what is more or less in doubt. But
between 14 and 18 it is soul-crushing, soul-debilitating, to introduce
them to a certain scepticism. What subject you deal with is much less
important than that you do not bring this debilitating pessimism to
It is important for oneself as a teacher to exercise a certain amount
of self-observation and not give in to any illusions; for it is fatal
if, just at this age, young people feel cleverer than the teacher
during class, especially in secondary matters. It should be — and
it can be achieved, even if not right in the first lesson — that
they are so gripped by what they hear that their attention will really
be diverted from all the teacher's little mannerisms. Here, too, the
teacher's latent inadequacies are the most fatal.
Now if you think, my dear friends, that neglect of these matters
unloads its consequences into the channels of instinctive love of
power and eroticism, then you will see from the beginning how
tremendously significant it is to take the education of these young
people in hand in a bold and generous way. You can much more easily
make mistakes with older students, let us say with those at medical
school. For what you do at this earlier age works into their later
life in an extraordinarily devastating way. It works destructively,
for instance, upon the relationships between people. The right kind of
interest in other human beings is not possible if the right sort of
world-interest is not aroused in the 15 or 16 year old. If they learn
only the Kant-Laplace theory of the creation of the solar system and
what one learns through astronomy and astrophysics today, if they cram
into their skulls only this idea of the cosmos, then in social
relationships they will be just such men and women as those of our
modern civilization who, out of anti-social impulses, shout about
every kind of social reform but within their souls actually bring
anti-social powers to expression. I have often said that the reason
people make such an outcry about social matters is because men are
It cannot be said often enough that in the years between 14 and 18 we
must build in the most careful way upon the fundamentally basic moral
relationship between pupil and teacher. And here morality is to be
understood in its broadest sense: that, for instance, a teacher calls
up in his soul the very deepest sense of responsibility for his task.
This moral attitude must show itself in that we do not give all too
much acknowledgement to this deflection toward subjectivity and one's
own personality. In such matters, imponderables really pass over from
teacher to pupil. Mournful teachers, un-alterably morose teachers, who
are immensely fond of their lower selves, produce in children of just
this age a faithful mirror picture, or if they do not, kindle a
terrible revolution. More important than any approved method is that
we do not expose our latent inadequacies and that we approach the
children with an attitude that is inwardly moral through and through
This sickly eroticism which has grown up — also in people's minds
— to such a terrible extent appears for the most part only in
city dwellers, city dwellers who have become teachers and doctors. And
only as urban life triumphs altogether in our civilization will these
things come to such a terrible — I do not want to say
blossoming but to such a frightful — degeneracy.
Naturally we must look not at appearances but at reality. It is
certainly quite unnecessary to begin to organize educational homes in
the country immediately. If teachers and pupils carry these same
detrimental feelings out into the country and are really permeated by
urban conceptions, you can call a school a country educational home as
long as you like, you will still have a blossoming of city life to
deal with ...
What we have spoken about here today is of the utmost pedagogical
importance and, in considering the high school years, should be taken
into the most earnest consideration.
Last Modified: 04-Jul-2018
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