He Took the Training

A Square Peg

Here are excerpts from another

inside account of Waldorf teacher training.

Perhaps taking a lead from Kafka,

whose protagonists were often identified as K,

the author — Andreas Lichte — refers to himself as L.

The translation below draws from the one posted

at http://waldorfcritics.org/articles/andreas_lichte.html;

it summarizes, condenses, and paraphrases

the original German text, which can be found at

see http://www.novo-magazin.de/71/novo7138.htm.

— Roger Rawlings

...Waldorf Pedagogy Introductory Course, 14th May — 11th July, 2001

A warm welcome! A family-like atmosphere is established. Togetherness, singing together, sharing drawings and clay modeling — no conflicts. Relaxation. L. nearly falls asleep while a teacher delivers a monologue about Rudolf Steiner....

...Sitting in at the Berlin Rudolf Steiner school, L. sees a "class play" put on by the school's 6th grade pupils, dramatizing the history of Rome ... Isn't there too much bloodshed? L. tries to suppress his uneasiness. Maybe the harmonious mood in the seminar has made him overly sensitive.

...Back at the seminar, L. says he was surprised to see 6th graders wading in blood. He also is surprised not to get any answers, just reproving glances telling him he will understand someday.

...Waldorf Pedagogy Course, 3rd September, 2001 — 5th July, 2002

A friendly hello, but perhaps a bit cooler than during the introductory course ... "The purpose of our being together is Rudolf Steiner." Steiner, Steiner on all subjects ... What about the art of teaching?

They are being asked if Atlantis is a geographical space or a state of consciousness. L. feels worn out by this esoteric excursion. Participants are expected to forget everything they had envisioned as true and accept the existence of higher worlds which will subsequently lead to the "vision of the seer."

A Steiner exegesis ... The correct way to find the supernatural world ... Forget what you've been told before ... The first term in anthroposophy is "anthro," meaning "man" ... Man is the whole universe ... Man stands upright, which distinguishes him from the animals ... Man is the beginning and the end ... Darwin is obsolete; Steiner is now.

A break ... So much to digest .. Heated discussions; no resolution....

Back to class. Watercoloring ... "We will limit ourselves to two colors, blue and yellow" ... Then a class on high school education ... The four temperaments (sanguine, phlegmatic, choleric, melancholic) ... Twentieth century psychology is unknown here ... L. suddenly understands what he observed during student teaching, the clear demarkation between teacher and students, the invisible boundary that could not be crossed....

...L. loses his sense of time. His goal to become a teacher seems to have vanished into the distant future. Every day there is only Steiner, Steiner, Steiner. L. wonders how his fellow participants are doing ... Those who think everything's great are, for the most part, already Anthroposophists ... A larger group seems indifferent ... They just want jobs ... A third group consists of former public school teachers looks for an alternative...

...Differences sharpen. Conflicts arise, getting worse over time. It all centers on Steiner. Some revere him, some are tired of him, some wonder if they will ever understand his teachings. Battles develop over Steiner's book THE STUDY OF MAN ... What is all this stuff about higher and lower peoples? ... L. insists such thoughts are dangerous, after all Germany did see where such thinking can lead. One participant ends the 'discussion' claiming that she ranks higher than someone who's in prison. L. is speechless, and the hour is over.

In the coming days and weeks, L. realizes many of the students have made peace with the idea of hierarchies in Anthroposophy ... human hierarchies, angel hierarchies, leaders ... But the classes are only scratching the surface of Steiner's many, many teachings. None of the lecturers think to offer explanatory summaries of their subjects: Lessons have more the feel of church services ... Lecturer Klein says, "I am a missionary on behalf of Steiner."

How to teach geography is the subject offered by lecturer Vormann ... Asian architecture — the pagoda ...The Asian is turning towards the sky ... The typical architecture of Northern America, the step pyramid. L. dares to ask: "What about the Indians of North America and their pueblo architecture? Or the tents of the nomadic peoples of the prairies?" "They are irrelevant to the big picture," the lecturer responds. "The Indians were a dying race."

...In the meantime. L. has been teaching in Schloss Hamborn, Westphalia, at "the Anthroposophic community" there. It has its own cemetery and Waldorf school. Everything went well, lots of joy and no problems, not even with the troubled kids.

Back at the seminar, L is approached by a lecturer. "We decided to meet tomorrow, to sit down with you and clarify matters — it is urgent!" This sounds bad. The next day, L. finds himself sitting opposite three lecturers who attack him verbally, hitting below the belt: "Your demeanour is adolescent! ... Do you imagine you'll ever get a job at a Waldorf school? What do you think I will say if a school asks me to evaluate you?" L. replies that he has done very well in his teaching.

The following day Mr. Fuchs hands him a list of criticisms ... L. has six main faults ... L. is a little flattered. He couldn't just sit there when people are described as a dying race ... His questions have at least been heard ... But will the authorities throw him out now? Will he ever fit in here?

...L. decides to stick with the program ... He has enjoyed teaching, working with students. Why should he give up his dream of being a teacher? ... Maybe, later on, he can make a sideways move into a state school...

...Almost all of the other participants are also enthusiastic about their teaching experiences ... But most of them are weary of the seminars about Steiner ... So the lecturers change their procedures: STUDY OF MAN is now taught by three lecturers together; they join forces against the demon Ahriman, the evils of materialism ... An Anthroposophical essay about Robert Oppenheimer discusses the sinful science of the twentieth century and the horrors of electricity ... The lecturers seem confused ... L. learns to tell them what they want to hear....

...L. is apparently one of the few participants who have been able to follow the lectures, and he is rewarded: Out of the blue, he is offered a job. The offer is made quietly, by one of the lecturers. L. thanks the lecturer but he feels sure he will turn down the offer ... L. wants to teach, but not at any price, and not with Anthroposophists.

Why does he feel so sure about this? He did something 'forbidden' — he read a book by Steiner that is meant for the initiated, a book titled COSMIC MEMORY. It presents the history of mankind as revealed to the initiated ... According to Steiner, mankind develops on seven different planets [i.e., "planetary conditions" — phases of evolution]. Mankind rises higher and higher, evolving from planet to planet, being assisted along the way by leaders who are already on a higher stage of development. Seven planets, on each of which mankind passes through seven times seven stages of development. L. is reminded of science fiction ... It is too much....

...L. thinks about the Indians, dying races, bloodshed in grade 6 ... He can no longer use the favorite German excuse: 'I did not know anything about it.'

He knows.

And so, goodbye Anthroposophy....

— Andreas Lichte