12 lectures for physicians and special-needs teachers, Dornach, June 25–July 7, 1924 (CW 317)
“Essentially we do not really have the right to talk about normality or abnormality in a child’s inner life, nor indeed in the inner life of human beings altogether.... One does not gain much from such labeling, and the first thing to happen should be that the physician or the teacher rejects such an assessment, and goes further than saying that something is clever or sensible according to the way people are habitually thinking” (Rudolf Steiner).
Speaking in 1924, when general attitudes to people with special needs were far from enlightened, Steiner gave this seminal lecture course to a small group of teachers and doctors as a basis for their future work. In the current cultural context, regressive ideas such as social Darwinism and eugenics were not only tolerated but popular (some 15 years after these lectures were delivered, the Nazis initiated their so-called euthanasia program). In contrast, Steiner—who had, as a young man, successfully tutored a boy with special needs—was devoted to the progressive task of special education and, in the words of one of those present, “gave the course with pleasure and satisfaction.”
Steiner describes polarities of illness and derives courses of treatment from a comprehensive analysis. He considers many individual cases in detail and gives indications on therapeutic exercises, diet, and medicine. The “I,” he states, relates directly to the physical body, and the spirit and soul need to be considered when making diagnoses. Throughout the lectures, Steiner offers valuable advice for the self-development of educators, emphasizing the need for enthusiasm, humor, and courage.
As with Steiner’s lectures on agriculture, this course has had a huge international impact, inspiring the establishment of hundreds of schools and communities for people with special needs, including the Camphill and Steiner special-education movements. Revolutionary in approach, the far-reaching perspectives of these lectures are a living source of inspiration to both professionals and parents, as well as anyone seeking spiritual insight.
This new edition features a fresh translation, introductory material, notes, color plates, and an index.
Education for Special Needs is a translation from German of Heilpädagogischer Kurs (GA 317).
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.