Vague and general phrases cannot provide the basis for a genuine art of education

Vague and general phrases — ‘the harmonious development of all the powers and talents in the child,’ and so forth — cannot provide the basis for a genuine art of education. Such an art of education can only be built up on a real knowledge of the human being. Not that these phrases are incorrect, but that at bottom they are as useless as it would be to say of a machine that all its parts must be brought harmoniously into action. To work a machine you must approach it, not with phrases and truisms, but with real and detailed knowledge. So for the art of education it is a knowledge of the members of man’s being and of their several development which is important. We must know on what part of the human being we have especially to work at a certain age, and how we can work upon it in the proper way.

There is of course no doubt that a truly realistic art of education, such as is here indicated, will only slowly make its way. This lies, indeed, in the whole mentality of our age, which will long continue to regard the facts of the spiritual world as the vapourings of an imagination run wild, while it takes vague and altogether unreal phrases for the result of a realistic way of thinking. Here, however, we shall unreservedly describe what will in time to come be a matter of common knowledge, though many to-day may still regard it as a figment of the mind.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 34 – The Education of the Child in the Light of Anthroposophy

Translated by George and Mary Adams

Previously posted on 19th October 2013

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