In the junior and senior years, it is vital that students of history learn and retain factual information. Yet the Waldorf teacher aims for something much deeper. In the words of Werner Glas: “It is through living with and into images and pictures with will-filled attention that the act of experiencing can be infused with a seed-like quality and a sense of the future. . . .[Rudolf Steiner] wanted the lessons to be not for the brain alone, but for the whole human being.”
How can we meet the challenge of giving both historical fact and imaginative picture their due? By deepening our understanding of the symptomatological approach, and by examining developmental changes in the junior and senior years, we gradually gain the confidence needed to teach out of Inspiration.
We will resume some “Big Picture” considerations of teaching history to juniors and seniors, touching upon such topics as interweaving
history and literature, art and science, as well as form and flexibility in the classroom, class discussion and activities, the main lesson or block book, evaluation and grading of students, and pitfalls to avoid in the classroom. We will draw upon ideas and experiences of all participants in the summer, including presentation of some of their independent research projects.
Medieval history is taught early in the junior year as background to Renaissance history but also to prepare for Parzival and Dante. The period from the rise of Christianity to the Renaissance spans nearly 1,000 years; in addition to events in Western Europe, the Byzantine and Islamic Empires call out for our attention.
“How can I cover it all?” can all too easily become a worrisome question for the teacher. Together we will search out ways to help our students discover something of the “essence” of the Middle Ages through the selection of especially telling (or symptomatic) episodes, through art, and through the presentation of major themes such as the development of Christianity, feudalism, and chivalry.
In the Renaissance, more than in any other age, “Man is the measure of all things”. Juniors find this idea exciting, and many look forward to this block. Like the bold young men and women of the Renaissance, they are ready to set out on a voyage of discovery. The teacher must know how to offer both freedom and guidance. Any successful voyage into the unknown requires sustained effort and a willingness to face suffering. After one’s initial enthusiasm has burned out, it is easy to founder on the rocks or become hopelessly lost.
We will discuss the use of individual biographies as keys to unlocking secrets of the Renaissance, as well as considering the use of artistic projects as opportunities for students to become “Renaissance figures” themselves.
World history is a culmination of past studies but should point to the future as well. The goal of the senior year is primarily to experience history as a process; to become able to see all that has been studied through the years as a meaningful whole. The student should also begin to understand cultural cycles.
How these goals are pursued will vary from teacher to teacher. We will examine a number of approaches, including European history since the Renaissance, economic history, study of the “-isms”, and the history of science. In addition, we will examine approaches to teaching American history, especially the period from the mid-1800s to the present, in these upper grades. Finally we will take up the question of multi-culturalism.