Chapter 10


In earlier chapters of this book it was shown how when quite a young man Rudolf Steiner interested himself in education. While he was still at school he tutored fellow-pupils of his own age and younger; when he was at the Vienna Institute of Technology he eked out his meager scholarship funds by tutoring, and then for several years he was responsible for the education of a severely handicapped boy, who was eventually able to become entirely normal and qualify as a doctor. In view of what has been said in this book about Steiner’s extraordinary capacity for observation, and his intuitive grasp of what lies behind the perceptible world, it will be readily appreciated that in all his youthful educational work he was constantly learning from his experience, and observing how human beings develop and change during childhood. It is, therefore, not surprising that as soon as he had a magazine at his disposal in which he could say what he wanted, he began to write educational articles, little though these may perhaps have been appreciated in the last years of the nineteenth century by the rather critical subscribers to the Berlin Magazine for Literature. Even at this time he took the position that it was the primary task of the teacher to awaken abilities in his students, and not to stuff them with knowledge, or ”transmit to them our own convictions.”

When a few years later he founded the magazine Luzifer-Gnosis whose subscribers knew that their magazine would be a vehicle for Rudolf Steiner’s ideas in every field, it was also natural for him to revert fairly often to social and educational questions in which he was vitally interested. The articles on the social order written for Luzifer-Gnosis in 1905 and 1906 necessarily lacked those ideas which he was later to describe in such detail, because, as we have seen, Steiner was not yet ready to speak of the threefold nature of man and so could not speak of the threefold nature of society. But in his fundamental educational lecture first given in 1907 and then personally revised for publication, after having been given in a slightly different form to many different audiences, he was already able to enunciate all the major educational principles later used in his educational work. In this lecture called The Education of the Child in the Light of Theosophy (or Anthroposophy) Steiner explains how a child in the first seven years of his life until the change of teeth lives in his will forces and learns by imitation, never by precept; how from the change of teeth to puberty (from the age of 7 to 14) he lives in the element of feeling, making it necessary for his studies to be saturated with artistic feeling, and therefore for him to be guided by a teacher with whom he should develop a relationship of love as well as respect; and how only at puberty can he really begin to think independently as his intellect for the first time becomes free. Human willing, feeling, and thinking thus follow each other in time, as first the physical, then the etheric and astral bodies, are successively developed until the young person at last acquires his own earthly I or ego at the age of about 21.

The entire educational programme of the Waldorf School at Stuttgart and subsequent schools either bearing this name, or called Steiner schools after the name of their originator, or after other personalities or higher beings to whom the school founders feel related, was already implicit in this lecture; and it would almost be possible to deduce an educational programme from it. Everything in Steiner education is based upon the child and his development, and not at all on the supposed needs of society. Thus the word ”education,” which in Latin means ”leading forth” may truly be applied to this form of education, as distinct from the word ”learning” which is more properly applied to most educational systems. In this lecture also first appears, most significantly, a passage in which Steiner voices his confident hope that some day he will be asked to take the lead in bringing his educational ideas to realization. ”These things,” he writes, ”can of course only be touched on here, but in future Anthroposophy will be called upon to give the necessary indications, and this it is in a position to do. For it is no empty abstraction but a body of living facts which can give guiding lines for the conduct of life’s realities.”

Twelve years had passed before Steiner was at last given the opportunity to put his educational ideas into operation. As a result of his first lecture to the workers in Emil Molt’s tobacco factory he was asked by them how the next generation could grow up free from the cultural deprivation from which they themselves had suffered. He immediately responded positively to the question and its implied request; and even before a full week had gone by after his lecture, he was already meeting for practical educational discussions with Emil Molt and two other anthroposophists, both of whom were to play a leading part in the school, and one of whom had been very active in the Threefold Movement from the beginning. The discussion, which was very wide-ranging, naturally turned upon the cultural realm of the Threefold Social Order, and on the necessity for new cultural impulses. But Steiner also spoke at length about how necessary it was for industrial workers to become aware of the world outside the field of their own specialized work, and to win back the dignity of which they had been robbed when first they came to be regarded virtually as interchangeable parts in the industrial system.

Up to this time Emil Molt, who was a strongly paternalistic employer, genuinely interested in the welfare of his employees, had been offering extension courses in various subjects to the workers. But they had excited relatively little interest, and he was thinking already of abandoning them for lack of support. But from the beginning the workers were fired with enthusiasm for the idea of a totally different kind of school for their children, and Molt, who was already a leader in the Threefold movement, immediately expressed himself as ready to devote the profits of his enterprise as ”gift-money” for this new cultural venture. After numerous discussions Steiner agreed to become what he called the ”guide and spiritual adviser” of the school, whereupon Molt bought a downtown restaurant which he proceeded to have remodelled as a school. The prospective student body for the opening, which was planned for September in the same year, consisted of the workers’ children, about a hundred and fifty in all, to which were quickly added the children of the Stuttgart anthroposophists, approximately fifty in number, and coming almost entirely from a different class from their new fellow-students. Thus the school was planned from the beginning to include all grades up to the twelfth. A complete educational programme therefore had to be offered, which would include the classes in the various arts that Steiner considered essential, and teachers had to be found for all of them. Perhaps fortunately, a few professional educators, who were also anthroposophists, were available with the necessary teaching experience. But the vast bulk of the teachers were chosen by Steiner himself from volunteers from every walk of life who wished to take part in the epoch-making experiment, and who were already familiar with Anthoroposophy and competent in the subjects they would be teaching. Many of these men and women left their existing employment to work with him in this venture; and it is probable that such a group of dedicated and gifted teachers has never been assembled before or since at the beginning of any school in history.

Obviously, the first task was to train them, both as teachers, and as pioneers in a new form of education. All Steiner schools, including this first one, are run by their faculty. For this reason it would be necessary for the teachers to learn how to work together as a team in a spirit of harmony in spite of the absence of any overall authority. At the beginning, instead of having such an authority over them they possessed a ”guide and spiritual adviser” in whom they all had absolute confidence, and he in turn had confidence in them because they had all been handpicked by him. The State authorities of Württemberg had granted him the right to make the experiment over a period of three years, although all he had submitted to them was a memorandum telling them how he proposed to run the school. Thus Steiner was in the unique position for an educator of having no immediate financial worries, no inspector breathing down his neck, and an absolute freedom to select his teachers and his curriculum, with a student body whose parents were willing absolutely to entrust their children to him and those whom he had selected.

It was arranged that Rudolf Steiner should meet with all the teachers in Stuttgart in late August and early September for the purpose of giving them a special training course which would continue almost until the opening of the school. This opening was scheduled for September 7th, 1919, under five months from the day the decision was made to create a new school in Stuttgart run according to principles derived from the anthroposophical view of man. But before giving this course an important task awaited him—to return to Dornach and tell the members there what was being planned at Stuttgart, while at the same time giving encouragement and advice to those who were working on the Goetheanum.

In this series of lectures given to the Dornach members, published under the title of Education as a Social Problem, Steiner began by speaking about the necessity for the Threefold Social Order, on which he had been working in Germany for months, insisting in particular on the need for the fundamental transformation of cultural life. He spoke of the great dangers threatening mankind from the one-sided development of the intellect, a faculty that men had only recently acquired for themselves, independent of divine inspiration. They are able now to use this faculty for their own ends, but if it is not to fall into the hands of Ahriman it must in future be permeated by the Christ Impulse. If men do not use their thinking capacity to fulfill the divine purposes it will necessarily be misused, and all kinds of new evils will be allowed entry into the world.

This introduction, on a theme to which he was to revert often in the last year of his life, was here given mainly as a background for his detailed explanation of the supreme importance of the role played by teachers in the social structure, and the qualities that would be required of them in the new school—how essential it was that they should be thoroughly versed in the science of spirit, so that they could have a true appreciation of the children committed to their charge, as beings of body, soul, and spirit, whose soul faculties would be unfolding beneath their gaze year by year; and how essential it was for these teachers to be able to develop living imaginative thinking in themselves. ”The burning question is therefore,” he told his audience, ”how can teacher training be transformed in future? It can be transformed in only one way, and that is, that the teacher himself absorbs what can come from spiritual science as knowledge of man’s true nature. The teacher must be permeated by the reality of man’s connection with the supersensible worlds. He must be in the position to see in the growing child evidence that he has descended from the supersensible world through conception and birth, has clothed himself with a body, and wishes to acquire here in the physical world what he cannot acquire in the life between death and a new birth, and in which the teacher has to help. Every child should stand before the soul of the teacher as a question posed by the supersensible world to the sense world. This question cannot be asked in a definite and comprehensive way in regard to every individual child unless one employs the knowledge that comes from spiritual science concerning the nature of man.”47

As soon as Steiner had given his last lecture in this cycle, a lecture in which he especially stressed the dangers of the development of one-sided intelligence, he betook himself to Stuttgart where his chosen teachers were awaiting him, and here for fourteen consecutive days he gave three separate courses, one in the morning, another in the afternoon, and the third in the evening. The course given in the morning was called The General Knowledge of Man as a Basis for Pedagogy, a beautifully exact title for the actual content of the course which has been published in several editions in English under the title of Study of Man. This course is still regarded as the essential foundation for all work in teacher training programmes for Steiner schools; and indeed it is the most comprehensive course in human psychology as well as in educational theory ever given by Rudolf Steiner. In particular the nature of man as a threefold being is strongly stressed and illustrated in numerous ways. The second course is published under the title Practical Course for Teachers, and it contains general and specific information on both the subject matter and methods used for children from different age groups. One of these lectures was also devoted to the arts as they would be taught in the Waldorf School. The third course, never published in English, but made available to teachers, was the so-called Pedagogical Course, or Course on Educational Practice. These courses were completed in the evening of September 5th. The next day, on which no lectures were given, was spent by the teachers in making ready for the next day’s ceremonial opening—and perhaps for the beginning of the digestion of the concentrated food of the previous fortnight! The absence of an assembly hall in the remodelled restaurant that was to serve as the school made it necessary for the opening ceremony, attended by parents and children as well as teachers and anthroposophists, to be held elsewhere. The school music teacher opened with a Bach Prelude, which was followed by a recitation by Marie Steiner and a demonstration of eurythmy by some children whom she had instructed. Then came an introductory speech by Emil Molt, followed by Rudolf Steiner’s opening address. This, of course was the highlight of the morning’s proceedings. In the afternoon, in an atmosphere of general festivity, the teachers and children were introduced to each other, and at night all the teachers were invited to a performance of The Magic Flute in the Stuttgart Opera House. There Rudolf Steiner sat by Herr Molt, pointing out to the industrialist where the teachers were all sitting in different parts of the theatre. On such occasions the years fell away from him—he was now 58—and he was as animated and excited as any of the children. School began the next day.

Steiner’s address at the opening of the school, important though it was, cannot be considered here in any detail. As he always did during the lifetime of the Threefold social movement, he related the establishment of the school to the need for a new impulse in the cultural life of Germany, an impulse which should from the beginning be drawn from the free cultural realm of the Threefold Social Order. The school was in truth an utterly free enterprise in an educational world dominated at the time by the state, and with educational requirements set by the state. Moreover it was a unitary school, and—an extraordinary innovation at that time—a coeducational school, offering only general education, without the specialization that in Germany of that age was thought to be such a great educational advance. The first Waldorf School was, indeed, so unusual at the time, and in many respects Waldorf education is so unusual even in our own age that we shall devote some space to its general features.

It is worth mentioning here that Steiner, even in his opening address, made it clear that the school was not and never would become a school for teaching Anthroposophy. The teachers would work from an anthroposophical impulse and out of the knowledge of Anthroposophy that they had acquired, including knowledge of the threefold nature of the human being. But they would tell the children nothing of what lay behind their teaching. Even in the religious classes that were given in all German schools in the 1920s no anthroposophical concepts were taught. A Catholic priest taught the Catholic children and a Protestant pastor taught the Protestant children. Those parents who were neither Catholic nor Protestants could choose for their children a general nondenominational Christianity course given by one of the regular school teachers, which might of course be somewhat influenced by the anthroposophical orientation of the teacher. In the early years of the school it became, as it turned out, by far the most popular of the three religious courses!

At the center of all anthroposophical thinking in the realm of education is the recognition that a child is not simply a small man or woman, and he should not be treated as such, reasoned with, preached to, filled with intellectual knowledge by adults, and expected to grow up in the image of his parents or teachers. A child is a potentially but not actually mature human being who will develop through the years of childhood at a pace that is virtually the same for all children, since the pace is governed not only by biological laws but by laws of the soul and spirit. At birth a child frees his physical body from his mother’s womb, at the change of teeth he frees his etheric body, and at puberty his astral body. Thus for the first seven years of his life, all education should be directed toward enabling him to make proper use of his physical body. With the change of teeth and the freeing of the etheric body, his education is directed primarily to this body for the next seven years until puberty. At the age of fourteen the astral body is usually entirely freed—indeed puberty actually consists of this freeing—and after the young person is able to work with forces not available to him before. With such insights as these provided by Anthroposophy, education ceases to be an arbitrary process of more or less hit-or-miss methods and curricula of study, and becomes a conscious effort to bring out the full potentialities of each individual child as they are inherent at each particular age, by teaching always subjects that belong to that age and in a manner suitable for it, and not for the age he will have reached two or three years later. Not until about the age of 21 does a young person receive his own I which is then freed for his use, as the other ”bodies” were freed at birth, 7 and 14.

It is, of course, possible to teach most children to read and write before the change of teeth, but it is not desirable because forces have to be used for reading and writing that have not yet become fully available for their use. It is possible for children of eleven to acquire various mathematical aptitudes before puberty which, according to Waldorf pedagogy, should not be acquired until later. In the long run nothing whatever is gained by trying to make use prematurely of these forces. It is not in the least important at the age of 21 whether one learned to read and write at the age of 5 or at the age of 7. What is important then is one’s ability to read and write well and to possess a lively intelligence unmarred by premature senescence. Children in Steiner schools are always kept in the same class as others of their age group, and are never allowed to skip a class because of their precocious intellectual capacities. Many subjects, especially as taught in the Steiner schools, possess relatively little intellectual content in the sense that the children are not expected to understand them in the way adults understand them. So it is possible to retain precociously intellectual children in the same class as all others of the same age without boring them; indeed, it is not at all unusual for such children to be relatively backward in artistic work, and to experience difficulties when they do eurythmy. If they are really good in all these subjects and activities they will certainly be encouraged to help other children who are less gifted than they, thus learning at an early age that it is a privilege to possess such gifts, carrying with it the responsibility to place them at the disposition of others.

In all respects Waldorf education is a general education, and at no time during the twelve years or so spent at school do the children specialize in any particular subject. Nor is there any competition within the classes. Marks are not given; the teacher makes his own evaluation of the children which is sent to their parents, who usually discuss the report cards of their children with the teachers and with the children themselves. The evaluation considers them in relation to their own past performances and capacities, as the teacher sees them—never in relation to other children. Parents who wish their children to shine and outshine others so that they may bask in the glory reflected on them by their children, receive no encouragement at Steiner schools; nor are any prizes given. A teacher feels himself most successful if there is a real solidarity among the members of his class and a true social feeling, so that no trace of rivalry or competition shows itself.

Even today all this is very different from what happens in most state schools. In 1919 in Germany it was truly revolutionary, as was also the mingling of children from different class backgrounds. In the first year of the school about 150 children came from the working class, as we have seen, their parents being employees of the tobacco factory, whose fees were paid from the ”gift-money” made available by Emil Molt from the factory’s profits. The other fifty or sixty children came from the middle or upper class, their parents being anthroposophists, very few of whom at this time were from the working class. As time went on, and the school won a very high reputation in Stuttgart, and even in Germany as a whole, the student body began to increase rapidly. By 1928 there were already more than a thousand children enrolled in the school, and more than fifty teachers. The proportion of children from the working class necessarily dropped with this increased enrollment since fees now had to be charged, and except for the children of the Waldorf Astoria factory workers, it was the parents who paid them. Indeed, little though this was originally intended, wherever Steiner schools have come into being, the student body has never been a true cross-section of society as Steiner would have wished. Scholarships, full or partial, have ensured that some children are enrolled whose parents come from the working class. But they remain a small minority everywhere, and only the original Waldorf School in Stuttgart has ever had the high proportion of children from the working class that it had at its beginning in 1919.

Almost all the innovations that distinguish Waldorf from state schools, and even from so-called ”progressive” schools today are based on Steiner’s perception of the child as a developing being with different needs at different ages. Most modern Waldorf schools, unlike the first school in Stuttgart at its founding, have kindergartens, and some even have nursery ”schools.” But no attempt is made in these schools to teach the children anything with an intellectual content, as for example reading and writing, because of the perception that the preschool child learns almost exclusively through imitation, and ought to do so. In kindergarten and nursery school, therefore, the children learn by doing, for example singing, dancing, making things with their hands, leaving the development of the intellect to the first year in primary school.

Examples of the adaptation of the school curriculum to the age of the children could be multiplied indefinitely, and the interested reader is referred to the many books on the Steiner schools and the kind of education they offer, including a chapter by the present author in his Man and World in the Light of Anthroposophy. Scarcely less interesting to educators is the way the schools are administered in accordance with Steiner’s belief that only those who take an active part in teaching should be responsible for the school management. Almost all Steiner schools have therefore established a College of Teachers, which is the decision-making body and includes all fulltime teachers who are employed on a regular basis. The College, at a minimum, will choose all new faculty members, and usually makes itself responsible for all business decisions, including the teachers’ salaries, the decision often being made on the basis of the teacher’s need and responsibilities. The effort is always made to make it clear to everyone that the salary paid is not regarded as a compensation for work done, thus obeying the fundamental rule enunciated by Rudolf Steiner that labor must never be regarded as a commodity—one of the pillars of the Threefold Order as he explained it. Very few indeed of the schools making use of Steiner’s educational principles have ever had to be closed because of bad management or lack of parental support. So perhaps it may be reasonably assumed that the system of faculty management works, and that professional administrators such as are to be found in all state school systems are not an absolute necessity.

Interestingly enough, a report exists in which a state school inspector expressed his impressions of the original Waldorf School in Stuttgart after it had been in operation for seven years, by which time the student body had arisen to over a thousand, and was no longer dependent on the largesse of Emil Molt, who paid only the fees of children of the workers in his factory. This report was not made public, but the inspector, F. Hartlieb, wrote an article based on his report, and had it published in a Württemberg educational journal. It was later translated into English and published. Throughout the article the author, who was not an anthroposophist and had had no knowledge of Anthroposophy before it became part of his official duties to report on the Waldorf School, emphasizes how much the state system could learn from it. Recognizing, as he said, that it was impossible to appreciate the Waldorf School at its true value without some knowledge of Steiner’s educational principles, he devoted much space in his report to a (very accurate) explanation of some basic anthroposophic concepts, and how they are reflected in the educational practice and in the curriculum of the school. Most surprisingly for a professional educator, Hartlieb lavished his praises on the Waldorf School teachers who came to the school from many different walks of life, each contributing his special talents to the whole.

”Without prejudice of any sort,” he wrote, ”I must put on record the fact that the College of Teachers with its high moral standard and intellectual attainments gives the Waldorf School its peculiar stamp and quality. A staff of teachers in such a close bond of union, working in the same spirit and filled with the same warmth of enthusiasm, cannot but bring their feeling of unity to daily expression. Each one serves the other in love; each one radiates forces, to receive forces into himself in return. . . . Thus they grow together into an exemplary community of life and work, such as deserves the highest recognition . . . The Waldorf School has no Board of Governors empowered to inspect its work. Nor does the time-table subject the individual to any kind of narrowing restrictions. Unity among the teachers is ensured by the teachers’ conferences, at which all-important questions are discussed in detail, and which the teachers attend at the School—sometimes several times a week and until late at night.... The children are warmly attached to their teachers, both men and women, who, without recourse to corporal punishment, train the soul and spirit of the boys and girls entrusted to them by love, goodness, wisdom and example, more even than by their enlightened methods of instruction. The teacher coming from a State school is struck by the fact that greater freedom of movement is allowed among the children of the Waldorf School than is generally the case. . . . The right behavior of the children in the Waldorf School is not regulated and one-sidedly enforced by an external discipline, but is founded in the inner life, so as to grow spontaneously from within. . . . The friendly spirit in the Waldorf School is beautifully revealed in the monthly festival when all the pupils up to the twelfth form gather with their teachers in the gymnasium, and follow with great interest the musical and eurythmy performances. The presence of the parents, who come in large numbers to all School gatherings, such as concerts, plays and so on, outside the usual schoolwork, gives the festival a homelike character. It also points clearly to the fact that parents, pupils and teachers are closely associated with one another. Finally, it should he pointed out that, in conformity with the natural family life, boys and girls are taught together. The Waldorf School has established co-education from the first form up to the twelfth and last class, and has contrived to make the differentiation of the sexes in soul and spirit serve the cause of education.”48

Almost everything that is done in present-day Steiner schools that makes them distinctive originates from Rudolf Steiner himself. During the few years that he was able to supervise the education personally he proved to be a cornucopia of new ideas and suggestions. The school festivals referred to by Herr Hartlieb remain today one of the distinctive features of Steiner schools, as do the concerts, plays and other performances by the students to which parents are invited. The festivals, as may be supposed, stemmed from Steiner’s numerous lectures on their significance, of which something will be said in Chapter 12. For a long time after the founding of the first Waldorf School in Stuttgart he attended in person as many of the faculty meetings as he was able, and though they were held regularly every week he used to make the journey from Dornach to Stuttgart for most of them. The teachers used to call him ”the teacher of the teachers,” and it was at these meetings that he gave them some of his most fruitful suggestions. To every question he was asked he gave an answer, and he played an active part in all discussions.

Steiner, it appears, was also greatly loved by the children, and during his sojourns in Stuttgart he visited as many classes as he could, always with the consent of their teachers. Such visits were never looked upon as inspections, and he never at any time permitted himself a word of criticism of the teacher in the presence of the class. Sometimes, at the teacher’s suggestion he would take over the class for the rest of the period, giving an impromptu presentation which often proved of immense benefit to the still not very experienced teacher. When he left the classroom he liked to ask the children if they loved their teachers, always to be met with the enthusiastic ”yes” that he quite certainly expected.

Many of the teachers used to make the not very long journey from Stuttgart to Dornach at the weekends for the express purpose of asking Rudolf Steiner yet another set of questions. In Dornach these men and women brought a breath of fresh air to the somewhat hothouse atmosphere. The first group of teachers, being drawn from many professions and coming from all parts of the German-speaking world, included people who had already won distinction elsewhere, though they were new to teaching. They made a considerable impression in Dornach not only with their questions but with their often brilliant talk. The members in Dornach, many of whom had lived there since before the war, were devoted and knowledgeable anthroposophists, but few of them could be considered men and women of the world. Some of them resented the invasion by the Stuttgart teachers and also the enthusiastic bands of young people who were working in one capacity or another for the Threefold Social Order. Some of the teachers and perhaps a majority of the young workers had a relatively slight knowledge of Anthroposophy, which was found somewhat shocking by many older members. Dornach had by this time become the real center of Anthroposophy, but important work continued to be done in other centers such as Stuttgart, Munich and Berlin, whose members were loath to admit the new supremacy of Dornach resulting from the building of the Goetheanum, and the work connected with it.

In addition to his numerous formal and informal talks to the Stuttgart teachers, Rudolf Steiner soon began to give courses on pedagogy elsewhere than in Stuttgart and Dornach. A Christmas educational conference held in the Goetheanum in 1921 was the occasion for visits of many foreign educators to Dornach, leading to further invitations to lecture abroad, in the hope that similar Waldorf Schools could be inaugurated outside Switzerland and Germany. The impulse towards this education proved especially strong in England. Rudolf Steiner was first invited to speak at an educational festival held in April 1922 at Shakespeare’s birthplace, Stratford-on-Avon. He took the opportunity not only to see about a dozen plays—he approved of the way the comedies were presented, but had other ideas on the staging of the tragedies—but also to give a lecture on Shakespeare himself and his inspiration, as well as on education. His lectures were well reported in the English press, and he was asked to deliver a whole course of lectures later in the year at Manchester College, Oxford University. These lectures were later published under the title The Spiritual Ground of Education. Thus, as early as 1922, Steiner became well known in English educational circles, and the movement to start another school on the lines of the Waldorf School in Stuttgart made some headway. Two further series of lectures on education were given in 1923 (Ilkley) and in 1924 (Torquay). By the time the second cycle was given under the title of The Kingdom of Childhood it had been determined that an English school would be founded. This was accomplished the following year when the so-called New School in Streatham, a London suburb, came into being. Later its name was changed to Michael Hall School; it still exists, being located now at Forest Row in Sussex.

In 1923 a young married couple opened a Waldorf School in a private house in the Hague in Holland, with ten pupils. Rudolf Steiner, encouraged by the initiative, paid it a visit later in the year, and the following year, when he visited Arnhem, Holland, for the last series of lectures he was to give in that country, he found time in a very crowded programme to give there a remarkable cycle of ten lectures, published under the English title of Human Values in Education, in which he spoke fervently about the future of all anthroposophical work in the world, including education. So many new possibilities existed now, he told his audience, that were not present before, and the spiritual world was waiting to give new inspirations to mankind. The school in the Hague survived and expanded, under a small group of very gifted teachers who remained with it for decades; and though it was closed down by the Nazis during the war, it was reopened immediately after their departure. Several schools in other countries were opened during the next decade, including the first school in the United States, the Rudolf Steiner School in New York, opened in 1929.

Until World War II the Steiner school movement grew rather slowly, in part because of financial stringencies, including the uncontrolled inflation in Germany and Austria in the early 1920s, and the worldwide depression of the 1930s. The National Socialist regime in Germany closed down all the Waldorf schools, including the parent school in Stuttgart, for reasons that do credit to the schools rather than to the Nazis! They claimed that the Waldorf schools were insufficiently nationalistic (as they said also unceasingly about Rudolf Steiner himself whom they regarded as an implacable enemy of their party), and, worse still, the schools had as their aim the development of free individualities. Naturally they could scarcely defend themselves against such charges, of which they were obviously guilty, and proud of the fact. But they had their reward after the Nazi regime was overthrown when the British and United States’ military governments did all they could to help them back into operation, for precisely the same reason that they had been suppressed by the Third Reich. In spite of the shortage of materials and bombed out buildings, the schools soon recovered their position as by far the largest private educational system in Germany. The Nazi authorities allowed two of the three Dutch schools to remain open, and of course Switzerland and Sweden as neutrals were unaffected by the Nazi tyranny, except for the financial stringencies engendered by the war itself and the shortages from which they suffered. In Great Britain, curiously enough, all the major schools were founded already before the war and continued to operate during it; and it was not until very recent times that the movement in Britain began to add more schools. The leading school had to be evacuated far from London during the war.

By 1952 there were 65 schools operating throughout the world, though several of these were small and struggling, and not all did in fact survive into the next decade. But with the 1960s the movement began a considerable expansion, the end of which is by no means in sight. It is difficult to state with any accuracy just how many Waldorf and Steiner schools are now in 1980 in operation, in part because some of the more recent schools may not be using all the elements of Steiner education used by the older and better established schools. There is no system of accreditation, and a school that likes to call itself a Steiner school will always be given the benefit of the doubt by its elders. Certainly there are more than 150 Steiner schools now in operation, making it the largest group of private schools in the world following the same educational principles. Indeed, there is no educational movement with a foothold in all five (or six) continents that can be compared with it.

As a consequence, it is mainly because of Rudolf Steiner’s contributions to education that he is known to the world today. But probably very few people indeed are aware that the first school in Stuttgart on which all others have been modelled, arose from the positive wish of its founder Emil Molt to make a first step forward toward the Threefold Social Order, by establishing a new kind of school in the spiritual/cultural domain, which would be a free and unitary co-educational school of a kind that was entirely unique in its time. Even today, sixty years later, the same may be said of the network of Steiner schools throughout the world, even though some elements of Steiner education have indeed been taken over by others, usually without acknowledgement. Few, if any, of these schools would deny today that they owe almost everything to the educational impulse given by their original founder, Rudolf Steiner, whose lectures on education remain the basis for every Waldorf teacher training course given anywhere throughout the world.



Chapter 11


Rudolf Steiner: Herald of a New Epoch