Course WC2 5
The Education of the Child in the Light of Anthroposophy - Part 2
Rudolf Steiner published "The Education of the Child in the Light of Anthroposophy" in 1907.
In this publication Steiner presented the basis of the educational approach that later would become the foundation of what is today known as Waldorf Education, and has been developed from the beginnings of the first Waldorf School founded by Rudolf Steiner and Emil Molt in Stuttgart, Germany in 1919 to being today a worldwide movement that has established itself all over thee world as the most innovative and dynamic educational movement in our modern time.
In "The Education of the Child in the Light of Anthroposophy" Steiner developed first the basic ideas that later became the cornerstones of this new form of education. Steiner addresses the nurture versus nature and the clash of cultures and worldviews surrounding this theme from a spiritual point of view. Steiner presented the basic concepts of the essential nature of the human being in body, soul and spirit, and Steiner discusses the physical body, etheric body, astral body and ego. Steiner presents the background to what is truly age appropriate education with the idea that the child in growing up recapitulates the development of consciousness of humanity while going through stages or phases of incarnation. Steiner outlines the differing educational approaches necessary to teach children during early childhood, during the grade school years, during high school and during later life as an adult.
Study Material for this Lesson WC2 5 2.2.
"The Education of the Child in the Light of Anthroposophy" by Rudolf Steiner (Section 7)
With the change of teeth, when the etheric body lays aside its outer etheric envelope, there begins the time when the etheric body can be worked upon by education from without. We must be quite clear what it is that can work upon the etheric body from without, The formation and growth of the etheric body means the molding and developing of the inclinations and habits, of the conscience, the character, the memory and temperament. The etheric body is worked upon through pictures and examples — i.e. by carefully guiding the imagination of the child. As before the age of seven we have to give the child the actual physical pattern for him to copy, so between the time of the change of teeth and puberty we must bring into his environment things with the right inner meaning and value. For it is from the inner meaning and value of things that the growing child will now take guidance. Whatever is fraught with a deep meaning that works through pictures and allegories, is the right thing for these years. The etheric body will unfold its forces if the well-ordered imagination is allowed to take guidance from the inner meaning it discovers for itself in pictures and allegories — whether seen in real life or communicated to the mind. It is not abstract conceptions that work in the right way on the growing etheric body, but rather what is seen and perceived — not indeed with the outward senses, but with the eye of the mind. This seeing and perceiving is the right means of education for these years.
For this reason it matters above all that the boy and girl should have as their teachers persons who can awaken in them, as they see and watch them, the right intellectual and moral powers. As for the first years of childhood Imitation and Example were, so to say, the magic words for education, so for the years of this second period the magic words are Discipleship and Authority. What the child sees directly in his educators, with inner perception, must become for him authority — not an authority compelled by force, but one that he accepts naturally without question. By it he will build up his conscience, habits and inclinations; by it he will bring his temperament into an ordered path. He will look out upon the things of the world as it were through its eyes. Those beautiful words of the poet, ‘Every man must choose his hero, in whose footsteps he will tread as he carves out his path to the heights of Olympus,’ have especial meaning for this time of life. Veneration and reverence are forces whereby the etheric body grows in the right way. If it was impossible during these years to look up to another person with unbounded reverence, one will have to suffer for the loss throughout the whole of one's later life. Where reverence is lacking, the living forces of the etheric body are stunted in their growth.
Picture to yourself how such an incident as the following works upon the character of a child. A boy of eight years old hears tell of someone who is truly worthy of honor and respect. All that he hears of him inspires in the boy a holy awe. The day draws near when for the first time he will be able to see him. With trembling hand he lifts the latch of the door behind which will appear before his sight the person he reveres. The beautiful feelings such an experience calls forth are among the lasting treasures of life. Happy is he who, not only in the solemn moments of life but continually, is able to look up to his teachers and educators as to his natural and unquestioned authorities.
Beside these living authorities, who as it were embody for the child intellectual and moral strength, there should also be those he can only apprehend with the mind and spirit, who likewise become for him authorities. The outstanding figures of history, stories of the lives of great men and women: let these determine the conscience and the direction of the mind. Abstract moral maxims are not yet to be used; they can only begin to have a helpful influence, when at the age of puberty the astral body liberates itself from its astral mother-envelope.
In the history lesson especially, the teacher should lead his teaching in the direction thus indicated. When telling stories of all kinds to little children before the change of teeth, our aim cannot be more than to awaken delight and vivacity and a happy enjoyment of the story. But after the change of teeth, we have in addition something else to bear in mind in choosing our material for stories; and that is, that we are placing before the boy or girl pictures of life that will arouse a spirit of emulation in the soul.
The fact should not be overlooked that bad habits may be completely overcome by drawing attention to appropriate instances that shock or repel the child. Reprimands give at best but little help in the matter of habits and inclinations. If, however, we show the living picture of a man who has given way to a similar bad habit, and let the child see where such an inclination actually leads, this will work upon the young imagination and go a long way towards the uprooting of the habit. The fact must always be remembered: it is not abstract ideas that have an influence on the developing etheric body, but living pictures that are seen and comprehended inwardly. The suggestion that has just been made certainly needs to be carried out with great tact, so that the effect may not be reversed and turn out the very opposite of what was intended. In the telling of stories everything depends upon the art of telling. Narration by word of mouth cannot, therefore, simply be replaced by reading.
In another connection too, the presentation of living pictures, or as we might say of symbols, to the mind, is important for the period between the change of teeth and puberty. It is essential that the secrets of Nature, the laws of life, be taught to the boy or girl, not in dry intellectual concepts, but as far as possible in symbols. Parables of the spiritual connections of things should be brought before the soul of the child in such a manner that behind the parables he divines and feels, rather than grasps intellectually, the underlying law in all existence. ‘All that is passing is but a parable,’ must be the maxim guiding all our education in this period. It is of vast importance for the child that he should receive the secrets of Nature in parables, before they are brought before his soul in the form of ‘natural laws’ and the like. An example may serve to make this clear. Let us imagine that we want to tell a child of the immortality of the soul, of the coming forth of the soul from the body. The way to do this is to use a comparison, such for example as the comparison of the butterfly coming forth from the chrysalis. As the butterfly soars up from the chrysalis, so after death the soul of man from the house of the body. No man will rightly grasp the fact in intellectual concepts, who has not first received it in such a picture. By such a parable, we speak not merely to the intellect but to the feeling of the child, to all his soul. A child who has experienced this, will approach the subject with an altogether different mood of soul, when later it is taught him in the form of intellectual concepts. It is indeed a very serious matter for any man, if he was not first enabled to approach the problems of existence with his feeling. Thus it is essential that the educator have at his disposal parables for all the laws of Nature and secrets of the World.
Here we have an excellent opportunity to observe with what effect the spiritual knowledge of Anthroposophy must work in life and practice. When the teacher comes before a class of children, armed with parables he has ‘made up’ out of an intellectual materialistic mode of thought, he will as a rule make little impression upon them. For he has first to puzzle out the parables for himself with all his intellectual cleverness. Parables to which one has first had to condescend have no convincing effect on those who listen to them. For when one speaks in parable and picture, it is not only what is spoken and shown that works upon the hearer, but a fine spiritual stream passes from the one to the other, from him who gives to him who receives. If he who tells has not himself the warm feeling of belief in his parable, he will make no impression on the other. For real effectiveness, it is essential to believe in one's parables as in absolute realities. And this can only be when one's thought is alive with spiritual knowledge. Take for instance the parable of which we have been speaking. The true student of Anthroposophy need not torment himself to think it out. For him it is reality. In the coming forth of the butterfly from the chrysalis he sees at work on a lower level of being the very same process that is repeated, on a higher level and at a higher stage of development, in the coming forth of the soul from the body. He believes in it with his whole might; and this belief streams as it were unseen from speaker to hearer, carrying conviction. Life flows freely, unhindered, back and forth from teacher to pupil. But for this it is necessary that the teacher draw from the full fountain of spiritual knowledge. His words and all that comes from him must receive feeling, warmth and color from a truly anthroposophic way of thought.
A wonderful prospect is thus opened out over the whole field of education. If it will but let itself be enriched from the well of life that Anthroposophy contains, education will itself be filled with life and understanding. There will no longer be that groping which is now so prevalent. All art and practice of education that is not continually receiving fresh nourishment from such roots as these is dry and dead. The spiritual knowledge of Anthroposophy has for all the secrets of the world appropriate parables — pictures taken from the very being of the things, pictures not first made by man, but laid by the forces of the world within the things themselves in the very act of their creation. Therefore this spiritual knowledge must form the living basis for the whole art of education.
The Education of the Child in the Light of Anthroposophy - Part 1
The Education of the Child in the Light of Anthroposophy - Part 2
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