History (HS 124)

In order to place this level of history teaching in its broader context, please read the following “Overview of the History Curriculum”:

We have three summers to prepare ourselves to teach four years of history in the Waldorf high school curriculum.

History is the biography of humanity. We are who we are at this moment of our lives at least in part because of what has happened in the past. Now, what lies at the heart of our comprehension and teaching of history is the anthroposophical conviction that a human being is actually a spiritual being who is taking on the task of being human. We learn how to be human in all senses of the word. Thus, we can look quite broadly at this human activity and say: in the distant past, humanity shared a one-ness in its nature that, over time and for many reasons, evolved into the creation of many cultures that spread over the face of the globe. Some cultures died, some expanded into what we can call civilizations. All this activity leads us to the present.

Historians look at these cultures from many different perspectives. The biographical one affords us a particularly effective one, for we then can ask the question: what is the relationship of individuals to their society? It is clear that it changes over time: broadly speaking, we can say that in earlier times the individuals aligned their individuality to the common good of the community while, currently, especially in the West, the individual has become more prominent, even more powerful, than the norms of society.

In fact, the question of what is an individual has morphed in the 21st century. The chaos and uncertainty that surrounds us as individuals and as members of a questionably stable society arise from the fact that we can easily see ourselves as individuals, and now seek our identities within some of our characterizing aspects. To know our identity is the need of our times. The answer is often sought in gender, race, ethnicity, nationalism, political opinions, religious persuasions, et al. (Caste is an interesting and highly significant characteristic in its own right.)

Is it even possible to teach history in an environment where students can have their own history and ignore all others’? When multilateral polarization is the norm? The answer is, yes.

The question of identity, however personally conceived, is one that actually unites all individuals, for it asks the question: what is the nature of a human being? What does it mean to be a spiritual being trying to perfect being human?

The progression from a shared humanity in ancient times to a shifting relationship of individual and societal rights and responsibilities over the past five millennia to an extreme form of self-interest and existential need is both cognizable and comprehensible. It is unavoidable; it is the world that we prepare our high school students to encounter and change.

We will do the following in the three summers sessions at CfA.

We will provide an overview of the biography of humanity:

Summer Session 1:

Grade 9, modern times

Grade 10, ancient times, Axial Age; Greeks and Roman republic

Summer Session 2:

Grade 11, (Roman) empire, medieval times (global), Renaissance

Summer Session 3:

Grade 12, Age of Reason, modern times

We will discover that many societies exist today at many different levels of development, and we will learn how not to think of them in a pejorative way. We will swim against the tide of our times and learn how, out of our own humanity, to value them.

We will place the human being’s development within that progression:

That is to say, we will not treat history as something that happened outside our normal human experience. We are not only our history, but we are our history. To engage in a living manner with history, we will learn to begin all history classes in the present and find connections with the past.

In this way, we will breathe some air into the questions of caste, gender, race, ethnicity, nationalism, political opinions, religious persuasions, et al and thereby create a panorama of human activity and concerns within which we can find our selves and every society existent on this remarkable globe we inhabit. Our appreciation for history will evolve into an understanding of the evolution of human consciousness.

We will expand our conceptualization of history:

When history becomes a living adventure for us, then certain rhythms will become apparent. What is true and remarkably self-evident in a human biography is discoverable in our biography of humanity. It will be clear that in the 21st century, as human beings we must learn to create a society that truly mirrors the nature of a human being. We must deal with issues that are real: the threefold social organism, the role of cycles in the evolution of consciousness, and the meeting of West and East are perhaps the most pressing.

When the students leave the high school, they will have been introduced to themselves and will, naturally, imagine a future that is within their ken and grasp.

I  Projected Learning Goals and Objectives:

Students will:

  • learn the pedagogical rhythm of an academic lesson
  • explore the evolution of consciousness in terms of 1) the developmental stages of a human being; 2) stages of humanity’s societal evolution from c. 5000 BCE to the present; 3) relationship of West and East
  • learn to use the terms Sentient Soul, Intellectual Soul, Consciousness Soul when referencing the evolution of consciousness
  • begin to work with an essential theme of our four-year history curriculum – the relationship of the individual and society
  • ask the question: are there influential historical cycles?
  • learn to ‘think historically’
  • Practice artistic activity in academic lessons (on site classes)
  • plot out a three-week main lesson

II   Overview of Course Content and Methods:

When dealing with the grade 9 curriculum, we will concentrate on modern times, specifically the revolutions and colonialism of the 18th – 21st centuries.

When dealing with the grade 10 curriculum, we look at the early stages of human activity, specifically c. 5000 BCE – 300 BCE. We see how the early one-ness of human activity eventually, inevitably, splits into what is unique to the West and the East. The Western-oriented ancient cultures and civilizations are typified in the development along the Nile and Tigris and Euphrates; the Eastern cultural tendencies are found in China.  (We will uncover links between the two in the concept of the Axial Age in Karl Jasper’s The Origin and Goal of History.) Indigenous cultures and peoples around the world, especially Africa, show the homogeneity of distinct expressions of individuals creating social forms that suit their needs.

When dealing with grade 10 curriculum, we also look at the source of so much that is Western Civilization today by studying Greece and early Rome (Republic.)

When dealing with grade 9 curriculum, we will contextualize issues of gender, nationalism, and colonialism within the framework of the Consciousness Soul epoch. When dealing with grade 10 curriculum, we will contextualize issues of caste, race, ethnicity, and gender within the framework of the Sentient Soul and issues of nationalism within the framework of the Intellectual Soul epoch.

We will use biographies to chart our course.

]In order to sense the living nature of the threefold social organism, we will see why the three essential elements of any society––cultural identity, political order, economic viability––are combined as one essential activity in the Sentient Soul times (ancient) epoch. And we will see how the Greeks and primarily the Romans, in the Intellectual Soul epoch, raised the legality aspect of culture to its own essential activity. We will see the cultures of the West, East and Africa, especially in the western regions, begin to ‘experiment with’ different governmental forms that suit the ‘natures’ of the people.

As a matter of course, we will show how the evolution of consciousness is an aspect of the evolution of language and integrate those insights into the flow of history.

We will use the content of our lessons as a guide to the emotional and cognitive development of high school students: with speech, reading comprehension, research projects, creative note-taking, and self-discipline we help mature the individual; with conversation, collaboration, and like activities we provide a societal context for their growth. Zoom techniques will be shared so that all the above will be fruitfully conveyed.

By the end of the course, we will have made a list of historians for future use and created for teachers and students a reading list of those texts and biographies that are most useful for our teaching.

Participants’ own professional experiences as history teacher and/or historian will further enrich the content of our discussions.

III  Verification Requirements and Evaluation Methods:

Evaluation will be based upon student involvement in class activities and discussions.

 IV  Readings:

Rudolf Steiner, Education as a Social Force (found as Part I in Education as a Force for Social Change.)

Handouts in class:

Werner Glas, The Waldorf Approach to History

Karl Jaspers, The Origin and Goal of History

Rudolf Steiner, Anthroposophical Leading Thoughts (selections)


FIRST year

Second Year

Third Year