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Social Basis For Primary and Secondary Education

On-line since: 30th September, 2018

Lecture II

Stuttgart, 18 May, 1919

I do not propose today to link up with what I was saying here last Sunday in the manner usually intended when people speak of continuing a subject. On that occasion I tried , as far as this was possible in a mere outline, to show in a general pedagogical and introductory way how we are to conceive the organisation of a life of spirit, a life instruction, independent of either the economic life of that of the State. I tried, too, to show how, once this independence is established, the various branches of instruction have to be applied in a new way, in order to give what must reveal itself to teacher and educa tor some kind of anthropological and pedagogical form or, perhaps it is better to say, a kind of anthropologically pedagogical activity. On the same occasion I remarked that one essential in the future will be the training and particularly the examining of a prospective teacher or educator to discover whether his personality is fitted for the task.

I will reserve the direct continuation of these matters for a later occasion and try to pursue my main subject in quite another way. I shall try to put before you clearly how it is necessary for me to think out of the evolutionary forces of the age — and how today we should have to speak at teachers' conferences, for example, or at somethigg of the sort, where people really desire to serve their times. At present it is a fact that, if we want to emerge from utter confusion and chaos, many things will have to be spoken of quite differently from how the present thinking habits prompt us to do.

Today even at teachers' conferences people talk — as can be proved by striking examples — on the old hackneyed lines, whereas it would be possible to introduce a really liberal education for the future, only if educators and teachers were able to rise to the level from which they could survey the very great task s at present facing us, insof ar as, out of the very nature of education and instruction, these tasks lend themselves to logical development. True, the manner in which I shall speak to you today will not be what I should like to hold up as a standard or even a pattern. But what I want to do is to indicate the angle from which we should speak to teachers so that they may themselves receive the impulse to get to work on an education having free play. It is just those who do the teaching who must rise to the level of the great and all-embracirg tasks of the age; they must be first to gain insight into the nature of the forces concealed behind present world events; they must see which forces have to be recognised as coming from the past and therefore needing to be superseded, which forces need to be specially cherished as having their roots in our present existence. These matters must be looked at today culturally and politically, in the best and most ideal sense, if we are to create a foundation for the impulses which will have to exist in those who are teachers. Above all, people must become aware that at every stage of instruction and guidance our education has suffered impoverishment and the reasons for this must be understood. The principal reason is that education has lost its direct connection with life. The educationalist today talks of many things which have to do with method, above all of the tremendous benefits that education is to derive from State control. Apparently, in his almost automatic way, he will still be speaking of these benefits when in theory he will in part have accepted the concept of the necessary threefold social organism. There has never been an age when thinking has been so automatic as it is now, and this is particularly evident where ideas on education are in question. These ideas on education have suffered under something that up to now we have been unable to escape; we must, however, escape from it. There are indeed questions today that cannot find so easy a solution as the following: Judging from past experience this or that will be possible. Then doubt will immediately take possession of the hearts and minds of men. Today there are innumerable questions which will have to be answered by: Is it not imperative that something should happen if we are to extricate ourselves from confusion and chaos? Here we have to do with questions of will, where the often apparently justified intellectual doubt regarding the validity of experience can settle nothing. For experience has value only when worked upon in a suitable way by the will. Today, though very little worked upon thus by the will, there is much in the way of experience. In the educational sphere itself a great deal is said against which, from the purely intellectual and scientific point of view, not much objection is to be made, and which from its own point of view is quite clever. But today it is important to understand the real issue — above all to understand how alien from real life our education has become.

I should here like again to refer to a personal incident. In Berlin about twenty-three years ago a society was formed concerned with college education. Its President was the astronomer Wilhelm Forster. I too belonged to this society. We had to hold a course of lectures most of which were given on the assumption that all it was necessary to know were certain stereotyped things about dealing with the various branches of science, about grouping these into faculties, and so on. I tried — though at the time I was little understood — to draw attention to the fact that a college should be a department of life in general, that whoever wants to speak about college education ought to start with the question: From the standpoint of world history, in what situations are we in life at present in all its different spheres, and what impulses have we to observe in these various spheres of life in order to let these impulsesstream into the college, thus linking it with the common life? When we work out such things, not in the abstract but concretely, countless points of view are revealed which, for example, help to reduce the time to be expended on any particular subject, and new ways of dealing with the various subjects are discovered. The moment any proposal is made for this reduction simply out of the ideas with which education works today, everything falls to the ground; the educational centres in question become mere institution s for training people who have no real connection with the world.

Now what are the intrinsic reasons, the deep lying reasons, for all this? Whereas in recent times thinking on the lines of natural science has made such wonderful progress, this fine method of thinking, which on the one hand has come to look upon man as purely a being of nature, has — to speak truly — cut off all knowledge of the real man. We have spoken quite recently of the tremendous importance of this knowledge of man's being for the right kind of teacher — the knowledge that recognises the real nature of the living human being, not in the formal way in which he is so often represented today, but in accordance with his inner being, particularly in accordance with the evolution of that being. There is a symptom, to which I have often referred here, showing how dreadfully foreign man's real being is to the modern educational movement. When a thing of this kind is said it may perhaps be considered paradoxical; it must be said today, however, for it is of the utmost importance. The loss of any real knowledge of man has produced that dreary, barren effort that is a branch of what is called experimental psychology against which, as such, I have no complaint. The so-called intelligence tests are a horrible travesty of what is really beneficial in the sphere of education. I have perhaps often described how, by certain physical contrivances, experiments are made with the avowed object of testing the memory, the understanding, of a human being, in order to register whether the particular person's memory and understanding are good or bad. In a purely mechanical manner, by giving part of a sentence and demanding its completion, or by some other device, it is sought to form an idea of the abilities of a growing human being. This is a symptom of how the direct relation between people — which alone is profitable — is a forgotten factor in our culture. It is a symptom of something cheerless which has been allowed to develop; but today it is admired as being remarkable progress — this testing of intelligence, this offspring of what are called in modern universities psychological laboratories. Until people see how necessary it is to return to a direct intuitive knowledge of man by studying the human being himself, particularly the growing human being, until we get rid of the unhappy gulf in this sphere between man and man, we shall never be able to understand how to lay the foundations for an education that is really alive and for a life of the spirit that is free. We shall have to purge all our educational establishments of this desire to experiment on the human being in order to satisfy the pedagogues. As groundwork for a reasonable psychology, I consider experimental psychology of value; in the form in which it has crept into education and even into the courts, however, it is a pervesion of the sound development of the evolving human being, between whom and his equally evolving fellow there is no yawning chasm. We have brought matters to such a pa ss that from what we strive after culturally we have excluded everything human; we must retrace our steps and once again unfold what belongs to man. We have also to find the courage to make an energetic stand against much of what in recent times has aroused growing admiration as a great achievement; otherwise we shall never make any advance. This explains how those today, who leave college with the intention of teaching, and proceed to educate human beings, have the most misguided conceptions about the real nature of man, and do not acquire the true conceptions because, in place of them, the kind of superficiality has arisen which we see in these intelligence tests. This will have to be recognised as a symptom of decline. We must seek within ourselves the capacity for judging the abilities of a human being, since he is a man and we ourselves are men. It must be understood that, because of this, every other method is unsound, for it destroys the fulness of what is immediately and vitally human — so necessary a factor in beneficial progress.

Now today these things are not seen at all. It is of primary importance that they should be seen if we are to progress. How often these things have been spoken of here; sometimes they have provoked a smile. But people have no notion that the reason for speaking of these things so frequently today is that they are an essential part of our life of spirit. There is nothing to be gained today by listening to what is said here as if it were a novelette; the important thing is to learn to distinguish between what is merely perceived, observed, and what may contain within it the seed to action. The culminating point of all the anthroposophical endeavors here is the building up of the idea of man, the passing on of the knowledge of man. It is this that we need. We need it because, from the very nature of the times, we have to overcome three forms of compulsion, the survivals of earlier days. First, the most ancient compulsion which masquerades today in various forms — the compulsion of the priesthood. We should make more progress in our study of the present situation were we today to recognise these disguises of certain obsolete facts and of the ideas and impulses unfortunately still living on in the thinking of the peoples of Europe, America and even in Asia — the modern disguises of the old priestly compulsion.

As our second compulsion we have something that develops later in man's historical evolution, also disguised in various ways today — the political compulsion.

And thirdly, coming comparatively late, there is the economic compulsion.

Out of these three compelling impulses men have to work their way; this is their task for the immediate present. They can get free today only if, to begin with, they clearly perceive the masks which in various ways disguise what is living in our midst, the masks which conceal the three compelling impulses among us.

Above all today the teacher must look to the level on which these things can be discussed, where, by means of the light gained from these things, we can illuminate contemporary evolution and thus become aware how one or other of these compulsions is lurking in some contemporary fact. Only when we find the courage to say: It is because teachers have isolated themselves, withdrawn into their schools, that such ill-judged ideas have been thought out as this testing of human efficiency by experiment — which is merely a symptom of much else... But everywhere today, where either general or special educational methods are spoken of, we see the result of this withdrawal behind the school walls where teachers have been banished by the State; we see this remoteness from real life. None of the principal branches of life, namely, the spiritual, the rights or political, and the economic, can develop fully at the present time — I say expressly at the present time, and particularly in this part of Europe — if these three branches do not stand each on its own ground. For the extreme west, America, and for the extreme east, it is rather different but, just because this is so, we ourselves must be aware of this. We shall have to think ultimately in concrete terms and not in abstract ones; otherwise, where space is concerned, we shall arrive at some theoretical Utopia for mankind throughout the entire earth, which is nonsense, or a kind of millennium in historical evolution — also nonsense. Thinking concretely in this sphere means thinking for a definite place and a definite time. We shall have something more to say about this today.

The attention of the teacher must be directed towards the great world phenomena; he must be able to survey what is there in our present spiritual life, and what changes have to be made in this present life by bringing out of the growing human being something different from what has been cultivated in him of late years. What has been cultivated of late years has, among those in educational circles who should have been active as teachers, led to terrible specialisation. On occasions such as speech-days, gatherings of scientists and other meetings of experts, we have often heard the praises of this specialisation vociferously sung. Naturally it would be foolish on my part were I unable to see the necessity for this specialisation in scientific spheres; but it needs to be balanced or we just create a gulf between man and man, no longer meeting our fellow men with understanding, but as a specialist confronting him helplessly as another kind of specialist. This gives us nothing on which to bare our belief in a specialist but the fact that he bears the stamp of some existing body of knowledge. We have been very near bringing this specialisation from the school into life. Whether the present vicissitudes will preserve us from the unhappy fate of having psychologists brought into the courts in addition to all the other experts, as many people wish, so that experiments can be made on criminals in the same way as they are made on our young people — this remains to be seen. I have less to say against the matter itself than against the way in which up to now it has been dealt with.

This is how things are under State control in the sphere of education, of school instruction.

Now after the short time in which people were talking of the inherent rights of manor, as they were then called, natural rights — no matter whether these were contestable or not — after this comparatively short time, came the age when people began to be shy of discussing these natural rights. It was taken for granted that whoever did so was a dilettante; in other words anyone was a dilettante who assumed the existence of something that established rights for man as an individual human being; the only professional way was to speak of historical rights, that is, of those rights which had developed in the course of history. People had not the courage to go into the question of the actual rights and on that account confined themselves to a study of the so-called historical ones. This especially is something that a teacher must know. Teachers must have their attention drawn, particularly during their conferences, to how in the course of the nineteenth century the concept of natural rights has been lost, or lives on in rights today in disguise, and how a certain wavering, a certain inner doubt, has persisted in face of what is merely historical. Whoever is acquainted with the conditions knows that the principal impulse today goes in the direction of historical rights, that people are at pains — to use Goethe's words — not to speak of inherent rights. In my lectures here I have frequently focus sed attention on how we must openly and honestly come to a final settlement in this matter. Hence we should not shrink from giving a true account of what has to be abolished, for nothing new can ever be set up unless there is a clear concept of what has impaired man's habits of thinking and perceiving.

It may well be said that our mid-European culture is a particularly forcible example of how a really positive idea of the State has broken down. There was an attempt to build it up again in the nineteenth century. It foundered, under the influence of the idea of purely historical rights, which made their impulses felt without this being noticed by those concerned. Whereas these people believed they were pursuing science in a way that was free from all prejudice, it really amounted to their pursuing it in the interest of the State or for some economic purpose. Not only into the carrying on of science but also into its content, and especially into all that has became practical science, there has flowed what has come from the influence of the State. Hence today we have practically no national economy because a free thinking, established on its own basis, has been unable to develop. Hence, too just where the most important laws of the economic life are concerned, there is today an utter lack of understanding given laws relating to genuine political economy are mentioned. We can see especially clearly into what confusion education has been thrown — education on a grand scale — for it has no connection with life, it has withdrawn from life into the schoolroom. A really living study of anything can never arise if we show merely what is to be experienced outwardly, without showing the way in which it should be experienced. The one thing cultivated today, namely, the worship of merely outward experience, leads simply to confusion, especially when it is a conscientious worship. We need the capacity to cultivate the inner impulses which lead us to the right experiences.

You will remember that last Friday I called your attention, in the necessarily brief way for lectures such as these, to how, by studying the conditions of European economy at the end of the fourteenth and the beginning of the fifteenth century, we were able to gain a clear idea of the forming of associations in future from impulses arising out of production and consumption. But to this point of observation, which underlies the whole of European life and proceeds from what is so clearly to be learnt in the general change-over to our modern age at the end of the fourteenth century, we come with the right point of view only by studying anthroposophy in its deepest aspects. The essential facts are not falsified by this, but we are directed to that point in evolution where is revealed in clear symptoms what lies rather beneath the superficial stream of evolution, and what is to be looked upon as the actual driving element. For this reason, what is inherent in the scientific method has been hidden from modern pedagogy and scientific didactics; pedagogy and didactics were thrown back upon chance and chance dictated in what sphere they were to be found. What we need is inner guiding lines to direct us to important truths; the directing lines which can be found by studying Goethe's world conception, through which such an infinite amount may be learnt. This is not just to be built up nor looked for intellectually, it must be sought in an inter-weaving of man with the world. This is something lost to us, as may indeed be seen in our present wish to fathom the individual being of man in the superficial way this is done in the educational side-line we call experimental psychology.

What is pre-eminently necessary today is for a light to be kindled in those who are responsible for the education of children concerning the very root of our modem development. If we now stand at a point where the main direction of life has to be changed, it is absolutely necessary to see into what has happened in the course of evolution up to now. The first thing to go under was the elementary impulse towards a free economic life of the state; then in the last third of the nineteenth century and on into the twentieth, — particularly in Central Europe, we trampled on our life of spirit, made it into something of secondary importance. How much, for instance, of the great impulse of Goetheanism has flowed into the kind of life of spirit we want today? Nothing, or practically nothing! People talk in a superficial way of Goethe; of the immensities concealed in the very way Goethe perceived the world, nothing has sunk into the general consciousness. As I have frequently told you the Goethe Society at Weimar showed themselves lacking in all sense of responsibility by placing at their head not a man who had understanding of Goethe, but a superannuated Prussian Minister of Finance!

Thus have we let ourselves sink into utter forgetfulness of our spiritual past. Nowhere in present day consciousness do we find what, through Goethe, gave the German life of spirit its characteristic stamp. It is all effaced, reduced to the level of a parasite. Editions of Goethe have followed one upon another, but nowhere do we meet with Goethe's spirit. Whoever sees through all this must say: In the realm of economy this is bad, in that of politics it is bad, but it is worst of all in the spiritual realm. In this way we have begun by ruining our political consciousness; after that we have ruined all connection with our own life of spirit. I do not say this from pessimism, I say it because, out of insight into what has happened in the past, there must arise what is to happen in the future.

Then — well, then came what is called the world war. After the collapse of the political life, which in its collapsed condition was nevertheless kept going, after the collapse of the life of spirit comes the economic collapse, the magnitude and intensity of which is even today not realised, because it is believed that we are at the end or at any rate in the middle of it, whereas we are merely at the beginning. This economic collapse — it can be studied in everything that played a part in producing the world catastrophe. If we would go into the pertinent details of the question of the Baghdad railway before the world war, for example, you would see there the most unhappy consequences of linking the political with the economic life. If you follow the single stages of the Baghdad transactions, with which the unfortunate Helfferich is specially connected, you see economic capitalism on the one hand forming combination on combination, on the other hand the interference of the national-political machinations of chauvinists, machinations which differ according to whether they work in from the east or from the west. In Germany, my dear friends, we observe the loss of all sense of action as the lifo of the spirit has been lost; the sense of action has disappeared with the real life of the State, and what remains is merely the economic life. Everywhere from the West we see economical-political aspirations playing in, wearing the mask of chauvinism or nationalism, the mask of the economical-political; whereas from the East we have the spiritual-political masquerading in various forms. All this is united in a confusion of threads which then lose themselves in the absurdity, in the impossible situation, of the Baghdad question. This question of the Baghdad railway, this whole procedure shows clearly the impossibility of any further development of the old imperialism, of any further development of the old political system.

Now what in the will to build this railway we see here as a great political problem of world importance, is seen again in incidents during the war. Things, however, have never been observed so that, guided on the right lines, people have come to the point where outer events can betray their inner connections. So Kapp squealed, Bethmann Hollweg raised an outcry while there was silence on the part of the spiritual leaders of Germany. That was indeed the situation. Kapp who represented agriculture squealed, not knowing which way to turn between war economy and the problems of the land. Bethmann Hollweg, who had no head for politics, raised an outcry, no longer having anything reasonable to say on the matter; and those Germans who were at the head of the spiritual life were silent because they had withdrawn into the schoolrooms of Germany and were no longer in touch with real life, having no notion of how in real life things should be managed.

I don't know how many of you remember all this. What I am giving you is no highly painted version but the situation in its actual colors. Kapp did squeal, Bethmann Hollweg really raised an outcry against the terrible way in which he, poor man, was attacked in the Reichstag; and those who were supposed to know something of the matter in question said either nothing or what, because it had no connection with life, amounted to nothing. The lines on which economy was developing could be shown up in all their absurdity only by a great, conspicuous world affair. Indeed, many people have never noticed the pass to which we have come also in what concerns the State. They had their Hohenzollerns, their Hahsburgs, their Romanoff Czars. That because of their impracticability, already in a most decided form the elements of disintegration were present within the empires of Hohenzollems, Habsburgs and Romanoffs, could be ignored, for it was possible for these empires to be held together in an umatural frame, already in process of disintegration because, within the State, there was no longer any real impulse. — On the part of the socialists today we frequently hear it emphasised that the State must cease. No one has done more to prevent a judicious administration of the State than those who represented the European dynasties in the nineteenth century. By deluding ourselves, and refusing to be conscious in various ways, it is possible to ignore the fact that we have trodden the life of spirit underfoot, as far as its achievements in the nineteenth century are concerned. This cannot be done to the economic life. When the State is starved people are offered the consolation of public holiday and royalty is feted with paper flowers. For example, it is no fabrication but an ascertainable fact that on the Hamburg bridges well-dressed women, souvenir mad, violently precipitated themselves on the cigarette ends William II had thrown away. Neither is it an idle tale that this same William II was not averse to such flattery but that it tickled his vanity; he delighted in such displays.

Thus, in the sphere of the economic life we have ultimately experienced the remarkable phenomenon which can be characterised only by saying that agriculture squealed, that there was an outcry on the part of the political life, and industry preened itself with satisfaction, workers included — to the extent to which they formed part of industry — until they arrived at the front, where they learned another tune and spread abroad other views on returning to their homes. It is obviously untrue when today it is said that collapse started in the home. Collapse started at the front because the men there could no longer endure the conditions. Such things must be known, especially by those who want to educate others. Henceforward they dare not sit in a comer without any understanding of life; they have to know what must happen. Far more important than keeping to any school time-table today would it be for the instructors of youth to hear discussions about this cultural and historical phenomenon, and to have revealed to them what shows itself so clearly in the sphere of the economic life under capitalism.

You know the saying ascribed to a certain society — a saying approved on one side, disputed on the other — “The end justifies the means.” In the economic life under capitalism another impulse has shown itself during the world catastrophe, and that is: The end has desecrated the means. For everywhere among the declared ends and aims — this is revealed also in that very question of the Baghdad railway — the means were desecrated, or, again the means desecrated the ends.

These matters must be known today and must be studied unreservedly. My present observations have an educational purpose insofar as I believe that from the aspect from which I am speaking today — not perhaps in accordance with the way in which I speak — teachers must, above all, have each stage elucidated. We have to outgrow what previously has prevented teachers hearing of these great world events. Because of this we are experiencing today the comfortless fact of how entirely ignorant a great part of the population were politically. Today we meet people — in this instance I cannot politely say “present company excepted”, at least not in all cases — who do not know what has been going on for decades in the most external affairs, for instance in the workers' movement; these people have no notion what form the struggles of the proletariat have taken during these decades. Now an educational system that turns out into the world men who pass one another by, and know nothing of each other, must surely be a factor leading to collapse. Are there not in the middle class today those who scarcely know more about the workers than the fact that they wear different clothes, and details of that description; who know nothing of the struggles going on in trades unions, in associations, in political parties, and have never taken the trouble to look into what is taking place all around them? Now why is this? It is because people have never learnt to take lessons from life, because they always learn some particular thing. They think: Ah, I know that, I am a specialist in that sphere; you know something else and are a specialist in some other sphere. — People have become accustomed to this without ever getting beyond what they have absorbed as knowledge at school, considering this as an end in itself, whereas the important thing is learning to learn, — Learning to learn, so that, however old one is, one can remain, up to the very year of one's death, a student of life. Today even when people have taken their degree, as a rule they have exhausted their powers of learning by the time they are out of their twenties. They are unable to learn anything more from life; parrot­wise they reel off what they have absorbed up to then. At most they have, now and again, an inkling of what is going on. Those who are different are exceptional. It is important that we should discover an educational method where people learn to learn, and go on learning from life their whole life long. There is nothing in life from which we cannot learn. We should have different ground beneath our feet today if people had learnt how to learn. Why nowadays are we socially so helpless? It is because facts are confronting us on a level to which men have not grown. They are unable to learn from these facts because they have always to confine themselves to externals. In future there will be no education that bears fruit if people will not trouble to rise to the great points of view in human culture.

Now whoever views the world today out of a certain anthroposophical back ground frequently discussed here, knows how to think concretely about all that is in it. He looks to the West, he looks to the East, and out of this concrete observation he can set himself problems. He looks towards the West into the Anglo-American world in which for many decades, perhaps even longer, there have played the great political impulses so damaging at present to central Europeans. Nevertheless these impulses are on a grand scale; and all the great impulses in the political life of the present time have originated from the Anglo-American peoples, for they have always known how to reckon with the historical forces. When during the war I tried to bring this to the notice of certain people sayinq: The forces coming from there can be withstood only by forces arising in the same way from historical impulses, — I was ridiculed because there is no belief, among us here, in great historical impulses. Whoever knows how to study the West rightly, insofar as it is Anglo-American, finds there a number of human instincts and impulses coming from the historical life. All these are of a political-economic nature. There are important impulses in an elementary form within Anglo-Americanism, which all have a political economic coloring; ever one there thinks so politically that this political thinking is extended into economics. But in all this there is one peculiar feature. You know that when we talk of economy we are demanding that, in the economy of the future, fraternity should hold sway; it was driven out of the imperialist-political economic strivings of the West. Fraternity was left out, eliminated; hence what lived there assumed its strongly capitalist trend.

Fraternity was developed in the East. Whoever studies the East in accordance with its nature, so entirely of soul and spirit, knows that out of the people there really springs a sense of brotherliness. Whereas what was characteristic of the West was a boom of the economic life destitute of brotherliness and tending therefore to capitalism, in the East there was brotherliness without economy, these two being held apart by us in Central Europe. We have the task — a thing the teacher must know — the task of synthesising the brotherliness of the East with the non-brotherly but economic way of thinking belonging to the West. We shall be socialists in a world-embracing sense if we bring this about. Let us now bring the East into a right line of vision. You find there, from very ancient times, a highly spiritual life. That it should have died out can be maintained only by those who have no understanding for Rabindranath Tagore. Men there, in the East, live a spiritual political life; and what of the opposite pole? It is to be found in the West. For this spiritual-political life of the East lacks something — it lacks freedom. It is a subjection that leads to the renunciation of the human self in Brahma or Nirvana. It is the reverse of all freedom. On the other hand, the West has made a conquest of freedom. Standing between East and West it is we who have to unite these in a synthesis, which is possible only by keeping freedom and fraternity quite distinct in life, but at the same time preserving balance between them. We must not understand our task, however, in such a way that what is suitable for one is suitable for everyone; for abstract thinking of that kind is the ruin of all striving after reality. All thinking in accordance with reality comes to grief when people believe that one kind of abstract ideal can be set up over the whole earth, or that an ordering of society holding good today will do so to all eternity. This is not only nonsense, it is a sin against reality, for each part of space, each section of time, has its own task, and this must be realised. But then we must not refuse through laziness to gain knowledge of the true, concrete human relations; and we must recognise our task by learning to study facts in accordance with their meaning. The primary and secondary education of recent days has led us very far from this kind of study; it has no wish to know anything of this concrete approach to phenomena, for at this point the region begins where men today feel uncertain of themselves. Instead of describing they would rather define. They would like today to take up images of the facts instead of accepting images of the facts as mere symptoms of what is expressed in the deeper lying impulses.

I am speaking today in such a way that the content of all I say is meant to be drawn from the region out of which anything about education must issue. Those who can best enter into what is said from this region make the best educators and teachers; not those who are asked what they know of any particular subject — knowledge of that kind can be found in a textbook and read up before a lesson. The important thing in future examinations must be to discover what those who aspire to be teachers are as men. A life of spirit of this kind applied to education, out of its very nature, creates the necessity of not being trained for cultural life one-sidedly but as spiritual workers standing fully within the three branches of the nature of man. I am not saying that anyone who has never worked with his hands is unable to see the truth rightly and never ta ke s a right stand in the life of the spirit. The following should be the aim — for man to go in and out of the three spheres of the threefold social organism, that he should form real relations with all three, that he should work, actually work, in all three. We need have no fear that the possibilities for this will remain hidden. A feeling for this, however, must arise particularly in the heads of those who in future will be teachers of the young. Then another feeling will come to life, a tendency to go beyond specialisation to what we try here to bring about through anthroposophy. We must come to the point of never breaking the thread of our study of the universally human, of our insight into what man actually is; we must never be submerged in specialisation in spite of having our specialists. This, it is true, demands a much more active life than most people today find pleasant.

I have often experienced an extraordinarily discordant note at conferences of specialists or technical conferences. People foregather there with the express purpose of furthering their special subject. Now this frequently is done for hours, with great diligence and keenness. But I have repeatedly heard a very strange expression — the expression "talking shop". Time is requested when shop is no longer to be talked, when no one is to speak any longer on his special subject. Then, for the most part, the silliest rubbish is talked, the most boring rubbish, but no shop. There is a certain amount of malicious gossip; many subjects are discussed, sometimes very interesting subjects — though that is looked at askance — in short, everyone is relieved when the talking of shop is over. Doesn't it show how little connection people really have with what they actually do, and what they are supposed to do, for mankind, if they are so pleased to get away from it? Now, I ask you: Will leaders of men who want to esca pe their particular profession as soon as possible ever be able to face up to a population of manual workers who enjoy their work? When today in their complacent way, they talk about the wrongs existing among the manual workers, you must not question the manual workers, you must question the bourgeoisie who have created the wrongs — these are the real sinners. Those who as manual workers are tied to the desolation of capitalism cannot attain joy in their work, when above them stands a class who perpetually have the wish to escape from what should make for their happiness. These are the ethical by-products of recent educational methods. It is something which must above all be realised and above all undergo change. There is much here that will have to become different in the customary thinking of those who teach.

What am I wanting to tell you in these remarks? I want to make clear to you how thorough-going today we have to be in our indications of what is to come about; how thoroughly necessary it is to leave the realm of the trivial, the terribly trivial content to which we have confined our thinking, and not only our thinking but also our life of feeling and will. How should the will prosper — and we need our will for the future — if it has to remain in the light of this petty habit of thinking, this petty quality of our ordinary thinking and feeling?

How much is entirely lacking that we must have for the future? For one thing we must have a real people's psychology. We must know what there is in the growing human being. We have blotted out this knowledge and in its stead have acquired tests that experiment with human beings because of the inability to apprehend their characteristics intuitively. All kinds of apparatus are supposed to reveal what the human being has in the way of abilities. We do not trust in ourselves to discover these things. And why? Because we do not approach them with interest; because we go through the world with our soul asleep. Our soul must wake up and we must look into these things. Then we shall see that much of what today is looked upon as great progress is really absurd. This poor pedagogue of the primary and secondary school is sent out like a human tame rabbit unable to see what is really going on in the world. The rabbit then proceeds to educate human beings, who because of this very education pass by their fellow men without any feeling for what lives in their souls. Thus, it is today, irrespective of the fact that among many of the middle class there is obviously no will to enter into the great contemporary questions and impulses, and that those today who have any will are not of much use because they know absolutely nothing about what is necessary, having slept through the time during which the proletariat day by day, for decades, have been schooling themselves politically. It is indeed very seldom that, when it is a matter of discussing the great questions of the day, we find proletarians making the excuse of not being able to afford the time to look into them; they make the time. But if you inquire of any bourgeois group, they have so much to do that they cannot afford the time to study contemporary matters — they all have far too much to do. That, however, is not the real reason; as a matter of fact they have no notion at all what it is they are supposed to study. They do not know how to go to work beca use this was never included in their education.

Now these are not just so many pessimistic remarks, nor are they intended as a sermon; they are a pure statement of fact. What is more, we have experienced that, when men have been forced to it by life, they have educated themselves in this matter. In cases where people should have been able to educate themselves out of their own impulse, it has all come to nothing, nothing at all has happened. It is on this account that we find ourselves in our present wretched condition, on this account that we hear about anything tried-out today not only expressions of ill-will, which are frequent enough, but all the unintelligent nonsense arising from ignorance of life, because no school has ever thought of teaching its pupils how to learn. Knowledge in individual cases always trickles to people through the protecting walls of comfort, but this does not have the same result as when the human being has free access to the phenomena of life with unimpeded senses.

The sad events of the present time might show us an infinite amount in that very sphere where people go on talking in the old way, and where it appears as if the clockwork of the brain had been wound up and was obliged to go on ticking. Conferences on external matters proceed today still in the same way as they proceeded before the war catastrophe. A great proportion of the people have learnt practically nothing from these terrible events, because they have never learnt how to learn. Now they will have to learn from dire necessity what fear has not taught them. In the past I have referred here to an utterance, quoted in what I wrote on the social question, of a most unassuming but cultured observer of life, Herman Grimm. “In the nineties of last century this man said: When we contemplate the life around us today and consider whither it is heading, whither it is rushing headlong, particularly in these ceaseless preparations for war, it is as if the chief desire was to fix the day for general suicide — so utterly hopeless does this life appear.” People are wanting, rather, to live in dreams, in illusion, those above all who think themselves practical. But today necessity is calling us to wake up; and those who do not wake will not be able to take part in what is essential, essential for every single man. Many do not even know how to put their hand to the plough in this matter.

This is what I wanted to say as a kind of exposition of what should be discussed today at teachers' meetings. It is what should be developed particularly by those who have the task of educating youth, those who should be looking towards what the future is to bring. When we continue these studies we shall go more into the details of education, details of primary and secondary education.




Last Modified: 02-Dec-2018
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