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Social Basis For Primary and Secondary Education

On-line since: 30th September, 2018

Lecture III

Stuttgart, 1 June, 1919

It is of outstanding importance today for us to recognise clearly the deep connections within the ordering of human society. In course of time people have become satisfied in many respects with what I would call superficial conceptions, conceptions based on what lies on the surface of existence. These conceptions lead them to consider one thing right, or let us say they lead to a certain thing being considered right by one man and wrong by another; but with these views of what is right and wrong we do not get anywhere. Nothing comes of them because, though thoughts may be formed about what lies on the surface, they do not produce any rational result when transformed into reality. Reality is not willing to put up so complacently as human heads with superficial opinions. These are a cancerous growth peculiar to the present age; and a further cancerous growth is men's refusal to gain sufficient self-knowledge to enable them, when the occasion arises, to say: All these things are done to further our personal interest and we should not make them masquerade: as a social aim; when we want to do something for ourselves we should not say that it is part of some social activity. We meet with a great deal of this kind. In diverse ways there has been an increase in what has existed for many years, namely, what people here have wished to do has continually been converted into the personal interest of some particular circle; it then being said that it is a consequence, an outcome, of what was wished from this quarter. I am just calling attention to the necessity for people nowadays to be willing to see more deeply into matters, thus ridding themselves of superficial conceptions.

Now nowhere is this necessity so urgent as in the sphere of education, and nowhere is the goodwill for it more lacking. For if we really think socially it is necessary in the educational sphere to focus our attention upon even the most elementary things; you may perhaps have gathered this from the two previous lectures of this series. But today especially I should like to know that this is realised as something meant to run through my whole lecture. Just look at what is experienced today by human beings, by small children, at all stages of school life. When a small child enters a school, in what goes on there everything is taken into account except the needs and the impulses of the developing human being; and with the advance from class to class this evil goes on increasing. Already at an age when such things should not be tolerated, the following, for example, may happen. The young pupil arrives at school for the first lesson of the morning. For this first lesson there is perhaps put down, for the convenience of the college of teachers, let us say mathematics, arithmetic, then Latin, then there may follow religious instruction. After that there perhaps come music or singing, perhaps not that but geography. You cannot do anything more destructive to the human heart and mind than arranging in this way for young people's powers of concentration to be so thoroughly undermined. What we must begin upon when reforming the sphere of education socially is pre-eminently the time-table, that arch-enemy of everything to do with genuine education; the time-table that continues throughout all stages in a school is what must be our first object of attack. If we think at all of restoring our education to health, we have to take care that in future the growing human being shall concentrate on one subject as long as it is necessary for his particular state of development. Thus, by careful study we must discover at what age it is necessary to give the growing pupil mathematical concepts, for example, and concepts of physics. Here we must not choose that worst of all methods — the giving of three or four weekly lessons on these subjects; we must on the contrary put aside a whole period for the pupil, which means that for a certain period of his life he has to concentrate on one thing without interruption. Out of a knowledge of man that is genuinely psychological, from the educational point of view, we must be clear, for example, at what age pupils should receive instruction in arithmetic. At that age arithmetic must be the first consideration, and the entire day devoted to focussing attention on the subject. Naturally I don't mean that the youngster should do nothing but mathematics from morning to evening; I mean it in the sense of what I found necessary when I was given a psychopathic child of eleven to educate. In this case I tried to set to work in an economic way; I arranged with all those responsible for the education of the child that I myself should have the say in respect of the time during which I wanted his soul to concentrate especially on a certain subject, and that I should be the one to draw up the plan for all the child did. Thus a definite time was to be given to the piano, a definite time to singing, and so on. It is not a question of filling the soul with teaching matter, but of so organising the whole development that the soul itself can concentrate upon one thing at a certain age, and that, before going on to any other subject, it is possible to reach a definite end in some individual branch of human culture. Let us say therefore: We have to consider how much arithmetic is to be given a human being at any definite period of life, so that at the end of that period the young developing child can have the feeling that it has made a step forward in the subject. Then only should a move on be made to another subject.

Thus, you see that what now constitutes the groundwork of our education, up to the highest stages of college life, bears within it the most harmful element of our whole education. There can hardly be anything more contrary to good sense than for the student on entering college to experience what I did in my day, that is, having to listen:

From 7 to 8 in the morning to philosophy
From 8 to 9 in the morning to history
From 9 to 10 in the morning to history of literature
From 10 to 11 in the morning to constitutional law.

Now in all this there is no intention, as there ought to be, of avoiding confusion in the mind of the developing human being; the only consideration is the convenience of the school authorities. This can be seen by the most unprejudiced of us.

Here we have a great and obvious task. It is a task, however, that, granted the present habits of thinking, wi11 not meet in general with much desire to set to work on it. This is what is meant when we say that now is the time for reorganisation on a big scale. Most people are prone to believe that this reorganisation is helped on by high-sounding words, but it is helped only when courage is forthcoming for big changes, and when we do not shrink from facing up to the opposition these changes arouse.

There is something else which today is very generally considered indispensable, something of particularly great significance for the lower classes in a school — the so-called government inspection of schools. There can be nothing more disastrous in a suitable development of the life of spirit than this official or semi-official inspection. What is needed in school affairs for the life of spirit — whoever look s deeply into things can see this — what is necessary for really thriving progress, calls for continuous watchfulness coming from the living nature of the instruction itself. This cannot and should never be gauged by any school inspection from outside. As long as he remains at his post, anyone to whom, with all necessary precautions, the administering of the life of spirit has been entrusted, should never have his methods, or anything of that kind, interfered with. This is something many people do not yet grasp, and lack of understanding for it is at the same time lack of understanding for one of the basic conditions of all life that can bring maturity to the human spirit. From this you see in what a thoroughgoing way we have to lay hands on what people today take as a matter of course — what they even ask to have in a more pronounced form. For there is scarcely one social party programme which does not dwell on the official or semi-official inspection of schools. This is not finding fault with any person or with any part, but simply pointing to what has resulted from the wrong direction gradually taken in the life of spirit.

We can make a special study, my dear friends, of this perverted life of spirit if we look at the higher classes in a school. How has our higher education actually developed? This indeed could be observed in the second half of the nineteenth century. Ultimately all those within the German life of spirit who enabled it to come to any definite significance in the world, had already arrived at maturity before this more recent system had destroyed the foundations of real spiritual development. Goethe indeed sufficiently abused the impediments even he met with during his school career. We should just picture what a different account Goethe would have given in his Poetry and Truth of Professor Ludwig and others, if in his eighteenth or nineteenth year the restrictions of the present higher educational centres had been imposed upon him. We must reflect on such things today. What actually is it that has been gradually abolished? Now when the grammar school, which today in accordance with modern demands is looked upon as a bugbear, was the only centre of preparation for higher education, when it still bore the stamp of the old monastic school — for its time not at all to be despised — it retained what we might describe by saying: The student absorbed something which gave him a general world-outlook. In the syllabus of these schools there figured what is called philosophy. It is true that this was cultivated only during the last two years; for the most part what belonged to the second year was taken in the first and vice versa, but at least something was there — the last remnants of what flourished in the old colleges, namely, that the first years spent by a student at college afforded a possibility of gaining some kind of world-outlook and qualified him to enter upon study for a special calling. For in reality no one can be fitted for a special calling who has not, through preparatory instruction, become capable of an intelligent, perceptive opinion about human affairs in general. Today it is considered superfluous to give people in a true form concepts that are logical or psychological. No one, however, can profitably study any branch whatever of the higher life of spirit, who has not previously experienced these logical and psychological conceptions, and thus qualified for this study. The more recent cultural life of spirit has abolished all these things. It has no longer any wish to look at man at all; this new culture seeks to train the life of spirit out of impulses quite foreign fo that life.

Now this has led to all that is found in our common cultivation of the spirit, which no longer bears the stamp of a united culture. It has split us asunder and so far has been unable to master what must be mastered. Anyone having experience in this sphere knows what wide praise has been given to the specialisation of recent times. It ha s constantly been pointed out how our cultural life has been so much extended that a man can have a thorough and profitable grasp only of special branch of knowledge. Something has been indicated here which, from one aspect, might be called self-evident, but out of inner laziness people have accepted it with alacrity. Men need today just to confine themselves within the limits of some special subject to be hailed as qualified men of culture. Naturally, anyone having culture at heart cannot hope and cannot wish that specialisation should give place to a general dilettantism. The aim must be for all education, all school-life, to be so organised for the human being that at a lower level of his consciousness it is always possible for him to connect his specialty by thread s of intelligence with the general culture. This can happen in no other way than by giving every college a foundation of the general culture of mankind. The pedants today will here protest and ask what is to become of professional training. We should just prove how economically we can proceed with professional training, when dealing with specialities , if we can work upon human beings with an all­round culture — if we can work upon men who really have something human in them. Through the perverse conditions of our modern culture we have reached the point where a man in his special subject can be a most highly developed being and, at the same time, colosally stupid where the great problems of man kind are concerned, understanding absolutely nothing about them. We have in our midst nowadays this curious phenomenon — that someone who has only passed through the primary school, and perhaps has not done this very satisfactorily, and has been dragged rather than brought up, has more sensible things to say about general human conditions than the man who has passed through higher education and excels in his own sphere. Today we must fight this phenomenon if we have any idea of sending into the depths those impulses which alone can bring improvement, impulses which do not lead merely to the superficial measures sought by those unwilling to take the path demanded by reality if anything is to happen. Naturally today we have let the evil go so far that we no longer have the personalities fit to build the foundations for a college of the kind, and are in the terrible situation of possessing no teachers for general human culture. For, my dear friends, it has come to this, that our colleges lie half asleep on the outermost fringes of culture. The following can be experienced — that in our colleges, during the hour appointed for some particular science, a professor gives his lecture from a notebook and the student listens. He — the student — will then buy himself a copy of some kind in order to read it up for his exam. This is quite a usual procedure. But what is it in reality? In reality the young man when he sits there listening is completely wasting his time, for actually he gets the information needed by reading the copy he has bought. Merely by that he would have done everything in the matter that has any reality. This means that the professor taking his place at the reading-desk and reading from his notes is an entirely unnecessary factor, absolutely superfluous.— Now it will be easy to say: Here is a fellow longing for the suppression of all professors. But no, that is not the case. I most certainly do not long for the suppression of professors; I am only calling attention to how professors nowadays give their lectures with no regard to the fact that printing has been invented, and that what they give out in their lectures penetrates a student's brain-box better when read in a printed book. All the same, I point out that the best one can gain from a well written book is hardly worth a tenth part of what comes from the immediate personality of the teacher in such a way that a connection arises between the soul of the teacher and the soul of the one who is taught. This can happen, however, only in a life of spirit with a basis of its own and its own administration, in which the individuality can fully develop and traditions do not hold sway for hundreds of years — as in universities and other centres of higher education — and where the individual man is able to be himself in the most individual sense. Then from this instruction by word of mout h will come something of which we can say: We have broken with everything coming to men even through the arts of printing and illustration, but jus t by doing so we gain the possibility of developing quite new teaching capacities, which today are dormant in mankind. All this belongs, indeed pre-eminently belongs, to our present social questions. For only if we have the heart and mind for it shall we be able to enter into what is necessary for our present age.

Now let us look at what for the general social situation arises from the perverted nature of our higher education. Yesterday in a public lecture I had to draw attention to how, strictly speaking, neither in the national economy of the bourgeoisie nor in that of the proletariat have we any reflection of the real social conditions, because we simply have not had the ability to arrive at a true social science. What then has arisen under the bourgeoisie in place of social science? Something of which people are very proud and never tired of praising, namely, modem sociology. Now this modern sociology is the most nonsensical product of culture that could possibly have arisen; for it sins against all the most elementary requirement for a social science. This sociology seeks to be great by taking no account of anything that could lead to social will, social impulse, merely noting historically and statistically the so-called sociological facts, to prove, or so it appears, that the human being is a kind of social animal living within a community. It has furnished strong evidence of this, unconsciously it is true, furnished it by not advancing anything but the most insipid sociological views which are the common property of everyone — mere trivialities. Nowhere is there the will to discover social laws and how they must effect the social will of man. Hence in this sphere the force of all life of spirit is crippled. We must calmly admit that all levels of society today that are not proletarian lack anything in the way of social will. Social will is non-existent just because, where it is meant to be cultivated, namely in centres for higher education, sociology has replaced social science — an ineffective sociology in place of a social science which pulsates in the will and stimulates the human being. These matters have their roots deep in the cultural life; it is there that they have to be sought if they are ever to be found. Let us reflect how different our situation would be in life if what we have previously discussed here were to be carried out. Instead of our gaze being turned back to the most ancient epochs of culture, which took their shape from quite different communal conditions, from the age of fourteen or fifteen upwards, when the sentient soul with its delicate vibrations is coming to life, the human being must be led directly to all that touches us most vitally in the life of the time. He should have to learn what has to do with agriculture, what goes on in trade, and he should learn about the various business connections. All this ought to be absorbed by a human being. Imagine how differently he would then face life, what an indepedent being he would be, how he would refuse to have forced upon him what today is prized as the highest cultural achievement, but which is nothing but the most depressing phenomenon of decadence.

It is only on the soil of a self-governing life of spirit that, for example, art can flourish. Genuine art, my dear friends, is an affair of the people; genuine art is essentially social in character. Whoever studies buildings of the Greek, Roman or Gothic styles in the way this is often done today, knows little of what really comes into question. He alone realises what lies in the Greek, Roman and Gothic architectural styles who knows how, when these prevailed, the whole social structure was to be found in the architectural forms, the direction of the lines, in what they portrayed, and how this art went on vibrating in the human souls. What a man did day by day, down to the very movements of his fingers, was a continuation of what he saw when looking at these things, in which he was able to absorb the real, true nature of the architecture. We need today to bring about the marriage between life and art which, however, can flourish only in the soil of a free life of spirit. How it is to be deplored, my dear friends, that the schoolrooms for our children are veritably a barbaric environment for their young hearts and minds. Imagine every schoolroom, not decorated in the way often thought artistic today, but shaped by an artist in such a way that each single form is in harmony with what his eye should fall upon when the child is learning his tables. Thoughts that are to be socially effective cannot work socially unless, while they are being formed, there flows into the soul as a side-stream of the spiritual life what comes from a really living environment. For this, however, art needs to take a quite different course during children's growing years from what is now accorded it. Anyone today, especially anyone who feels within him the artistic impulse, has no possibility of really drawing near to life. If he feels the impulse to become a painter, for example, he is urged on by lif to produce as soon as possible a realistic picture, as of a ham, for he imagines it to be of importance to create something that satisfies himself. Obviously this is important; but the first question is whether the impulse towards inner satisfaction has found its way out into life in such a way that our greatest inner satisfaction comes from asking life: What is it that one has to create? and from the conscientious feeling that one is in duty bound to repay life for what one ha s taken from it. Today, art is not served by painters providing people with landscapes they do not understand; on the contrary, art is thrown to the dogs. In this way we have an unnecessary luxury-art, side-by-side in life with an environment showing traces of barbarism. Just imagine that conditions were such (I endeavored to deal with this in my book on the social question) that production costs were to accrue only until the article was complete, when this would go free of excess profit on the market. Think how by this every individual egoistic interest would be eliminated, how there would of itself spring up instinctively, intuitively, in all those who are creative, the tendency to create for men at large, how they would seek the possibility of creating for all mankind instead of creating, as is done today, what is unneeded, just for the benefit of the capitalist. The task is, above all, to socialise in such a way that the life of spirit is not trodden underfoot in the process.

On this point those with any authority have not yet the most elementary impulse to discover what is right. Nowadays they are scandalised by bolshevists and others. But the bolshevists are not responsible for their own existence. Who is? Those in authority! For they have felt no impulse to found a real people's culture. There would be no bolshevism had the authorities done their duty; apart from the fact that bolshevism is not what people in authoritative circles paint it, in order to make it into an object of horror and to justify their armaments. But this is merely a digression.

Today it would be necessary, particularly for those in leading circles, in all honesty to face oneself. But indeed there is very little inclination in this direction today.

That which is a necessary factor for the bettering of the soul has in truth not yet been torn from the soul through man's evolution; it might still be there; it could be even in the German people, indeed to a special degree. But the German people have long since left off developing the germinal forces of individual thoughts, individual feelings, individual impulses. In the lowest classes of a school impulses are inoculated which make of the naturally great-hearted German people a governmental automaton, a machine blindly following the dictates of their government. There is a connection between all that confronts us in such a terrible way today and this mistaken education, this education which does not make for the independence and freedom of man because in itself it is neither free nor independent. This education feels more at ease the closer it is bound to the State, and its we11-being increases when in innumerable conferences the resolution is adopted: We have every confidence in the Government — which now, in Versailles, is doing its best to destroy us. These resolutions are adopted at innumerable assemblies. We stand firmly behind our Government. — Whereas in truth in the Government there is hardly a man who has the right to be there — the first requirement being to admit openly and freely that everything happening there is merely the continuation of the harm done in the provinces of Germany in that unhappy year 1914. Into these things flow the faults of our education al system; and these faults haw deprived people of their ability rightly to estimate the events in life.

As I have already said, just as a reasonable school system, thinking more of concentration than of a wretched timetable, would give the human being an independent power of understanding and reason, so a real permeation by social art of our community through education would give us a true culture of the will. For no one can have will who has not had it drawn out by a genuinely artistic education. To realise this secret of the connection between art and life — especially with the will element in man — is one of the very first requirements of future psychological education; and in future all education must by psychological. To judge from how things are at present, when all psychology has been driven out of ordinary folk, the founders of our future psychology will have to be the artists, who still retain a little of it, whereas otherwise it has vanished from our culture. Even in scientific education no particle of it is left. But a psychological approach to life would be possible if the individual really worked for everyone and everyone worked for the individual; for then productive power would be so organised that time would be left for an education of this kind. Much of the humbug talked today would be unnecessary if we had the will to talk seriously and candidly, and if we achieved the only thing that can serve the life of spirit, namely, the mutual interplay of manual labor and work of the spirit, which must in future be our aim. Then, all over the earth, if everyone (it would not be possible for everyone but we can get some way towards the ideal would take a share in manual labor, no one would need to work at it daily for more than three or four hours. At least we get this result when reckoning approximately. Daily manual labor over and above three or four hours is not a necessity in human evolution — today this can be said dispassionately as a quite objective fact — it is a result of our having countless idlers in our midst and also people who live on private incomes. We must face these things as they really are. For the improvement of these conditions does not depend upon making some little change here or there, but upon organising our education, our primary and secondary education, so that through education, through the very nature of our schools, human beings learn how to use their judgment.

Affairs today are such that our system of education rears young human plants with no power at all to judge what is going on around them. Hence all the information, coming for example from Versailles, is so nonsensical, because no one can judge what is the relative importance of things, nor from what motives an opinion is formed by people about what is necessary for them on the grounds of their particular nature. When therefore these things are spoken of they meet with no understanding; were it possible for only a particle of what is inherent in the threefold social organism to enter human understanding, it would be seen how what threatens us from the West is a drowning of all political and spiritual life in the economic life, and how what presses upon us from the East, including Russia, is men's cry for the life of spirit to be freed from that of economics. Two poles confront each other, West and East, and we in the middle have the task of looking to the West and avoiding its errors, of looking to the East and ourselves cultivating what must otherwise be imposed upon us, not in the course of centuries but in a few decades, because if men will not impose tasks on themselves others will impose them. Ours is the task here in Central Europe of cultivating what can be cultivated only out of the threefold social organism. Today, were eastern culture to predominate, the earth would be inundated by a vague mysticism, inundated by a theosophy with no reality. Were predominance to arise in the West, we should be dominated, tyrannised over by a purely material life. Then the task should be ours to ward off from mankind two terrible sources of harm by a rational threefold State, giving independence to the economic life and to the lif e of the spirit, and making it impossible for the State to drive these things so far that we ourselves are crushed between East and West.

Now an objective picture of the West reveals today above all how alive we must be to all that comes from the Latin peoples. Nothing could be more dangerous for us than to delude ourselves about how profoundly it is rooted in the French to work for our destruction. If we prevent France from doing this then what threatens us from the side of the English can easily be overcome. For this, however, the powers of discrimination and judgment are needed. Above all, it is necessary to understand that with a few exceptions all those from Germany, — I don't know how this is to be expressed without wounding someone — who today in Versailles are negotiating the fate of Germany, are nothing more than instruments for these negotiations. These things today must indeed be faced as plain facts, faced by our inner judgment without the slightest concession. — If we understand this today we receive the first impulse particularly needed for primary and secondary education; we see what has been brought to the surface in man by his present education which now is forming man's destiny.

Naturally it is easier today to form the most trivial judgment about what is meant here than, aroused in this way, to look at the different human spheres for what is right. — When some time ago I spoke in our Dornach building of the threefold social organism, a short while afterwards a most strange plan emerged; perhaps I may quote it as a grotesque example of the way in which people today have been educated. — Well, we have our building, where a number of people are occupied, others are connected with it who have nothing to do but just live in the neighborhood. And in this building the threefold social organism was described. Now in certain heads there sprang up the idea, self-evident today, that a beginning would have to be made somewhere, and it was wished to begin with a social experiment, these people having in mind, in the most depressing sectarian way, a little area where depressing seedlings of egoism could be made to sprout so that they could then boast that socialisation had somewhere made a start. Thus, a beginning was to be made by those grouped around the Dornach building to form a social State when the threefold social organism could enter upon the scene. Plans were drawn up for this. The only thing to be done was to say to these good people: Whatever is this intended to be? If you are taking this seriously the first thing is to make your economic life independent. For that, you would naturally have to protect cows, milk them, and do all that obviously is imposed by an economic oasis. Then because men from outside must be connected with this economic oasis, it is quite possible for them to become fine parasites of yours, for any establishment shut off in this sectarian way breeds parasites. In such an economically shut-off domain it is only possible to create a social centre for egoism; who it is exclusive it lives at the cost of others. It is simply the direst form of capitalism. As for the life of rights — well, if you set up a Court of Justice and you sentence anyone who has been up to mischief, I should just like to know what the Swiss state would say to your Threefold Commonwealth. Then, for the life of spirit — since we have had an Anthroposophical Movement, it is precisely for the life of spirit that in face of resistance we have been striving on all sides toward s independence. We shall have this as long as we exist, but you do not see that this is already taken in hand. There is so little understanding for this that it may be thought not to have been attempted. It is not a question today of saying: A beginning must be made somewhere. A beginning of that sort is for the most part only a depressing capitalist individualisation. To found such a colony it is necessary to begin on a capitalist footing, and this is very far from what is meant from a really socialistic point of view. This is no criticism of any individual effort, for I am the last person to be unaware of the difficulties met with by the individual when embarking on the great tasks of the present time. There is something else, however, that I would impress upon your hearts: Don't bury your heads in the sand when you want to individualise anything on a capitalistic basis, but acknowledge that modern conditions still oblige you to individualise for your own advantage in a capitalistic way. Admit the truth, I beg, for truth will be the basis upon which all social life must be founded. Truth should not be forsworn in anything that is said. We should never, even in the forming of our sentences, confront mankind with what is untrue.

Throughout the land today you hear the cry for schooling free of charge. What does this really imply? But the cry throughout the land should be: How can we get a form of socialism in which everyone is enabled to contribute in the right way towards educational affairs? Free schooling is nothing less than a social lie, for behind this is hidden either the fact that surplus value finds it way into the pockets of a little set of people who then found a school and thus gain mastery over others; or sand is strewn in the eyes of the public so that they should not realise that among the coins they take from their purse there must be some that go to the upkeep of schools. — In all that we say, in the very shaping of our sentences, we must conscientiously strive after truth.

The task is great, but the greatness of the task must be vividly before us. What is set before anthroposophy as an ideal, what has been in this small movement for some decades, naturally, my dear friends, cannot be realised by everyone. One man has to consider his calling, another his wife, the wife her husband, while another has the education of his children to think of. This must be admitted unreservedly by each of us so that he may realise how far he is from what is really in question. For the anthroposophical ideal is of such a nature that it necessitates the absorption of the whole man. Today this is impossible for many. But they should not delude themselves with the nebulous idea that they have done enough; they should acknowledge the truth about themselves. On the other hand they should be permeated by the thought that the cultivation of our life of spirit is a matter today of the first importance. No one can form a right conception of what is necessary for the life of spirit, including the social life, who has not the courage to admit that radical change must go as far as reforming our obnoxious time tables; it must deal with many trifles; for it has been an accumulation of trifles which has brought about the terrible havoc existing in our present culture.

Last Modified: 02-Dec-2018
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