8 lectures, Dornach, April 15–22, 1923 (CW 306);
plus “Introductory Words to a Eurythmy Performance”
Three and a half years after the founding of the first Waldorf school in Stuttgart, Germany, these talks were given to an audience of Swiss school teachers, most having little knowledge of Anthroposophy. This is the context of these lectures, which are among Rudolf Steiner's most accessible talks on education.
A teacher who attended the lectures wrote in the Berne School Paper: “Every morning, as we listened anew to Dr. Steiner, we felt we had come closer to him and understood better what he had to say and how he had to say it. Daily, we newcomers gathered, asking ourselves: Why are more of our colleagues not here? It is untrue that anthroposophy limits a person, develops blinkers, or avoids real life.... Step by step, Dr. Steiner shows its application to life...illumining the details and disclosing their connection with profound questions of life and existence. I came to the conference to stimulate my school work. I found benefit in abundance. But also, I unexpectedly received a greater richness for heart and soul—and, from this in turn shall stream richness for my classes.”
In other words, these lectures are ideal for anyone who is approaching Waldorf education for the first time. Using language that any teacher or parent can understand, Steiner goes into the essentials of his educational philosophy, providing many examples and anecdotes to convey his meaning. In this way, against the background of the developing child, he allows the curriculum and the method of teaching to emerge as the commonsense conclusion of practical experience.
German source: Die pädagogisch Praxis vom Geichtspunkte geisteswissenschaftlicher Menschenerkenntnis (GA 306).
Rudolf Steiner (1861–1925) was born in the small village of Kraljevec, Austro-Hungarian Empire (now in Croatia), where he grew up (see right). As a young man, he lived in Weimar and Berlin, where he became a well-published scientific, literary, and philosophical scholar, known especially for his work with Goethe’s scientific writings. At the beginning of the twentieth century, he began to develop his early philosophical principles into an approach to systematic research into psychological and spiritual phenomena. Formally beginning his spiritual teaching career under the auspices of the Theosophical Society, Steiner came to use the term Anthroposophy (and spiritual science) for his philosophy, spiritual research, and findings. The influence of Steiner’s multifaceted genius has led to innovative and holistic approaches in medicine, various therapies, philosophy, religious renewal, Waldorf education, education for special needs, threefold economics, biodynamic agriculture, Goethean science, architecture, and the arts of drama, speech, and eurythmy. In 1924, Rudolf Steiner founded the General Anthroposophical Society, which today has branches throughout the world. He died in Dornach, Switzerland.
Douglas Sloan is Professor of History and Education Emeritus at Teachers College, Columbia University, where he has taught for more than thirty years. During this time, he was also Adjunct Professor of Religion and Education at Union Theological Seminary and The Jewish Theological Seminary, New York, and Director of the Center for the Study of the Spiritual Foundations of Education at Teachers College. From 1992 until 2000, he was also Director of the Masters Program in Waldorf Education at Sunbridge College. His books include Insight-Imagination: The Emancipation of Thought and the Modern World and Faith and Knowledge: Mainstream Protestantism and American Higher Education. He and his wife Fern live near Harlemville, New York.