Saturday, May 29, 2021

Steiner Education

 "Teachers still go on, weary and not a little disillusioned, in some small corner of themselves cherishing a battered ideal, dreaming at times of an experimental school where they may become artists again. And when they can they crowd to hear of such a place, as now they crowd to Oxford to hear what Dr Steiner thinks of spiritual values in education and social life…. Whoever heard of applicants for a teacher post being asked first of all of their opinion of the soul? Yet this is just the question Dr Steiner seems to put to his teachers. An uninterested visitor may well mistake details of his meaning, and convey a wrong impression; yet even at the risk of misapprehension or doubt, its value to education should not be passed over in silence… You may not believe in reincarnation. You may dispute the existence of the spiritual body, scoff at the connection between metabolism and the will, or mistake the new art of ‘visible speech’, eurythmy, for dancing. You may, of course, deny the immortal element in man; in that case you will care for none of these things. But if you admit it, you must face the consequences as Dr Steiner faces them, honestly. Call him a dreamer, occultists, clairvoyant, even crank, but do not doubt his consistency and ability. You know how worried you have been lately about the state of Europe. If you cannot go to Oxford or to Dornoch in Switzerland, you might perhaps call at the Board of Education or any other government office, and ask what provision they are making for the souls of the people."


An extract from an article in The Nation – responding to a lecture series by Rudolf Steiner given in Oxford, England 1922

Source material: 

Sun King's Counsellor 


  1. I have always felt that being a good teacher required a great deal more autonomy than seems to be the case in Steiner education. I feel suffocated just reading about them!

    Even as an ideal, leaving aside the compromises and convergence with the mainstream, the role of a Steiner teacher seems to be regarded in an extremely Ahrimanic way - following a standard programme. And the children too.

    My feeling is that education is always a crude compromise, and that the good stuff only happens in the holes of the structure - *any* kind of education that strives for a highly prescribed structure seems likely to be dead before it is born.

    But, whatever high hopes were held-out for Waldorf Schools 100 years ago, surely anyone from Then who saw the state of them Now would be so disappointed as to regard them as a failure?

    1. "The role of a Steiner teacher seems to be regarded in an extremely Ahrimanic way - following a standard programme. And the children too."
      I think you are thinking too much with the fiery, free chaos of Lucifer in this respect. For there is definitely something that it is to be a human being, and there is definitely something that it is to develop from a child to an adolescent, to an adult - and to work with these archetypes, using Steiner's indications as just that and not dogmatically, is not in the least bit "programmed" or "suffocating" but is born from actual insight on an individual level.

      Given that there are clear patterns that manifest in all human beings as they develop, what sort of educational ideals would you expect to find in a Steiner school if not the ones you have read about? What should Steiner education look like to you?

    2. "What should Steiner education look like to you?"

      I don't think there should be such a thing! I regard it as a serious cause for regret that Steiner - in his last years - got involved in so many ventures - Anthroposophical Society, real estate (Goetheanum), education, medicine, religion, agriculture etc. I don't think it was good for him to be regarded as omniscient and infallible by so many people.

  2. I think his aim was to establish a cultural impulse, and that has certainly happened in ways that go far beyond the institutions themselves. I also have had first hand experience of Steiner education, so although I am sympathetic to your concerns in theory, in practice I cannot deny what I have experienced. With spirituality, it is all too easy to remain in the theoretical only, where ideas never have to be challenged by practical life - and ridicule any form these ideas might take as soon as someone tries to put them into practice. But to the degree that Anthroposophical initiatives have become bureaucratic and mechanical, I am in complete agreement with you.


The Archetype of all Ideas

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