Sunday, November 15, 2015
How to get a child to develop moral impulses
Rudolf Steiner: "If we now turn to the moral aspect, the question is how we can best get the child to develop moral impulses. And here we are dealing with the most important of all educational questions. Now, we do not endow a child with moral impulses by giving him commands, by saying: you must do this, this has to be done, this is good — by wanting to prove to him that a thing is good, and must be done. Or by saying: that is bad, that is wicked, you must not do that — and by wanting to prove that a certain thing is bad. A child has not as yet the intellectual attitude of an adult toward good and evil, toward the whole world of morality; he has to grow up to it. And this he will do only on reaching puberty, when the rhythmic system has accomplished its essential task and the intellectual powers are ripe for complete development. Then the human being may experience the satisfaction of forming moral judgment in contact with life itself. We must not engraft moral judgment onto the child. We must so lay the foundation for moral judgment that when the child awakens at puberty he can form his own moral judgment from observation of life.
The last way to attain this is to give finite commands to a child. We can achieve it, however, if we work by examples, or by presenting pictures to the child's imagination: for instance through biographies or descriptions of good men or bad men; or by inventing circumstances which present a picture, an imagination of goodness to the child's mind. For, since the rhythmic system is particularly active in the child during this period, pleasure and displeasure can arise in him — not judgment as to good and evil, but sympathy with the good which the child beholds presented in an image, or antipathy to the evil which he beholds so presented. It is not a case of appealing to the child's intellect, of saying ‘Thou shalt’ or ‘Thou shalt not,’ but of fostering aesthetic judgment, so that the child shall begin to take pleasure in goodness, shall feel sympathy when he sees goodness, and feel dislike and antipathy when he beholds evil. This is a very different thing from working on the intellect, by way of precepts formulated by the intellect. For the child will only be awake for such precepts when it is no longer our business to educate him, namely, when he is a man and learns from life itself. And we should not rob the child of the satisfaction of awakening to morality of his own accord. And we shall not do this if we give him the right preparation during the rhythmic period of his life; if we train him to take an aesthetic pleasure in goodness, an aesthetic dislike of evil; that is, if also here, we work through imagery.
Otherwise, when the child awakens after puberty he will feel an inward bondage. He will not perhaps realize this bondage consciously, but throughout his subsequent life he will lack the important experience: morality has awakened within me, moral judgment has developed. We cannot attain this inner satisfaction by means of abstract moral instruction; it must be rightly prepared by working in this manner for the child's morality."