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Rudolf Steiner Resources

Spiritual Science and Pedagogy

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Presented in Basel, NOVEMBER 27, 1919 A Lecture for Public School Teachers

I consider it a particular honor to be able to speak to you about the relationship of my work in spiritual science to your pedagogical work. You will allow me to make two introductory remarks. The first is that I will, of course, need to clothe my thoughts in apparently theoretical words and ideas, since to discuss points of view, we need words. However, I expressly note that I do not speak theoretically. I would not even speak about today's topic if I did not direct a portion of my activity toward the practical, particularly concerning educational methods and their effectiveness. Thus, what I wish to bring to you today comes directly from practice.

The second thing I would like to say is that at present spiritual science is extremely controversial. I therefore can quite understand (especially because I represent spiritual science) that there may be many objections today because its methods are, in many cases, foreign to modern points of view. Perhaps we can help make spiritual science more understandable through the way we introduce it and attempt to make it a true living force in such an important practical area as education.

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Main Lesson Block Teaching in the Waldorf School

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References to Main Lesson Blocks appearing in the lectures of Rudolf Steiner
Note that the books listed in this article are available in eBook format in the Books section of this website

When Rudolf Steiner inaugurated the first Waldorf school, he established the “main lesson”—a two-hour class during which all academic subjects except for foreign languages would be taught. The subjects taught in the main lesson were studied for block of time lasting from three to six or more weeks.

Teaching in main lesson blocks has become one of the most successful and distinguishing features of Waldorf education, for it allows teachers to cover the curriculum intensively and economically, and it provides the students with the fullest possible immersion in a subject. The students’ experience of the subject is further deepened by allowing the subject to “go to sleep,” before being “reawakened” later in the year or in the following year. Through this process of forgetting and remembering, students return to a subject with new interest and new insights. The time between the main lesson blocks in a subject allows students’ concepts to develop gradually and to mature. Knowledge needs time to take root, blossom, and bear fruit. The main lesson block assures that students have sufficient time to experience a living process of learning.

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How to Create, Tell and Recall a Story

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Let me give you an example of something which can sink into the child’s soul so that it grows with his growth, something which one can come back to in later years and make use of to arouse certain feelings within him. Nothing is more useful and fruitful in teaching than to give the children something in picture form between the seventh and eighth years, and later, perhaps in the fourteenth and fifteenth years, come back to again in some way or other. Just for this reason we try to let the children in the Waldorf school remain as long as possible with one teacher. When they come to school at seven years of age, the children are given over to a teacher who then takes his class up the school as far as he can, for it is good that things which at one time were given to the child in germ can again and again furnish the content of the methods employed in his education.

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Education Seen as a Problem Involving the Training of Teachers

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From our last lectures you will have seen that the problem of education is the most important of all the questions that now occupy our minds. We have already emphasized that the whole social problem contains as its chief factor the problem of education. A week ago I gave you certain indications for the changes which are needed in the whole system of education so that you will easily understand that the most important sub-question in this problem is that of the training of teachers themselves.
If you study the character of the epoch which began in the middle of the fifteenth century, you will gain the impression that throughout that time a wave of materialistic probations swept through the whole evolution of humanity, and in the present time we must realize that it is necessary to work our way out of this materialistic wave and to find our way back to the spirit. The spiritual path was known to humanity in past epochs of culture, but in those olden times men trod this path more or less instinctively and unconsciously, and they lost it in order that they might re-discover it through their own impulse, out of their own freedom. The path leading to the spirit must now be sought consciously, in full consciousness.

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Religious and Moral Education in the Light of Spiritual Science

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The following is excerpted from a lecture given by Rudolf Steiner at the Hague on November 4, 1922. It
appears for the first time in English translation as part of a collection entitled
Education, Teaching, and the Practical Life (available from AWSNA Publications). This lecture was also published in the Research Bulletin, Vol.13 #1, 2007.

An artistic element, I might call it a mood of piety toward the human essence, belongs in education, in teaching. This is particularly the case if we direct our gaze at the religious and moral education we want to bestow on the child. And here anthroposophical spiritual science shows us that especially when it comes to the religious and moral element, there is something in the human time-body that is of great significance for the life span on earth of the entire human being. If one can recognize the small child’s mood as that of an essentially imitative being imitating the outer world, and if we can put ourselves in this mood, the only way to characterize it is this—the child is completely open to the outer world; the child gets lost in the outer world. Just as the eye loses itself in the outer world of color, the outer world of light, so too the child loses itself in the outer world. The inner world dawns in the child only gradually. Specific mental representations emerge little by little out of dreams, which still completely live and weave in the outer world.

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