Curative education

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Curative education for people in need of soul care on an anthroposophical basis is used very successfully all over the world today. It emerged from the impulses Rudolf Steiner gave in his Curative Education Course for doctors and curative educators in 1924 for the support of children or adults "who are to be educated out of an incomplete development or, as far as possible, are to be healed." (Lit.:GA 317, p. 11)


„It is natural that anyone who wants to educate incompletely developed children should begin with a realisation, a truly penetrating realisation of the educational practice for healthy children. That is what everyone who wants to educate such children must acquire. For one must be quite clear that all that can actually occur in incompletely developed children, in morbid children, is also noticeable in a more intimate way in the so-called normal life of the soul; one must only be able to observe the normal life of the soul accordingly. One would like to say that somewhere in a corner there sits at first a so-called abnormality in the soul-life of every human being. Only such things as, let us say, a little flight of thought, or an inability to space the words correctly when speaking, so that one either rolls over in speech, or else that the listener can walk between two words that one utters, or similar irregularities, which can also occur in the life of the will and the life of feeling, are noticeable, at least in a slight disposition, in the greatest number of people. And we shall have to speak a good deal about such irregularities later on, because they must be regarded as symptoms by those who wish to deal with the great irregularities in an educational or curative way. One must be able to make one's symptom studies in these matters, just as the physician in cases of illness speaks of symptoms by which he recognises the illnesses, and also speaks of the symptom complex by which he can survey the pathological, but will never confuse that which lies in the symptom complex with that which is actually the substantial content of the illness.“ (Lit.:GA 317, p. 11f)

„Basically, we have no other right to talk about the normality or abnormality of the child's soul life or human soul life in general than by looking at what is 'normal' on average. There is no other criterion than that which is generally customary before a community of Philistines. And if this community regards anything as reasonable or clever, then everything is "abnormal" soul life that is not "normal" soul life in the opinion of these Philistines. There is no other criterion to begin with. That is why the judgements are so extraordinarily confused when one begins by stating an abnormality and then does everything possible to remedy it - instead of which one drives out a piece of genius.“ (Lit.:GA 317, p. 12f)

Education through self-education

„He who wants to become an educator for abnormal children is never finished, for him every child is a new problem, a new riddle. But he only comes to it when he is guided by the being in the child as to how he must do it in each individual case. It is uncomfortable work, but it is the only real work.

That is why, in the sense of this spiritual science, it is so important that we, as educators, should cultivate self-education in the most fundamental sense.

We will practise the best self-education if we follow the symptoms of illness with interest.“ (Lit.:GA 317, p. 74f)

Humour and enthusiasm

„Above all, what does it take to educate such children? Not the leaden heaviness, but humour, real humour, the humour of life. Despite all kinds of clever tricks, you won't be able to educate such children if you don't have the necessary humour. So there will have to be a sense of flexibility in the anthroposophical movement. I do not want to point out too much. But it is really true that we are least understood by what I say when I am asked, in the face of some calamity or other, what we should do when I answer: have enthusiasm. Enthusiasm is what is important. - And enthusiasm is what counts, especially with children who are abnormal.“ (Lit.:GA 317, p. 102f)

Thinking defects and will defects

As a rule, developmental disorders deal with organically caused will defects and much more rarely with direct thinking defects, which are often only a secondary consequence of the inhibition of the will. For example, the liver is the essential organ for putting ideas into action. If the liver activity is disturbed, inhibitions of the will occur (Lit.:GA 317, p. 22).

„In the child's organism, therefore, if it is a question of a defect of the will, one has above all to ask: With which organ, with which organ degeneration, with which organ disease is such a defect of the will connected? - That is the more important question.

It is not the thinking defect that is of such immense importance. Most defects are actually defects of the will; for even if you have a defect in thinking, you must look carefully to see in what way the defect in thinking is a defect of the will. For if you think too quickly or too slowly, the thoughts may be quite right, it is only a question of the will, which works in the interaction, having a defect. One must look to see to what extent the will is involved. You can only state that there is a defect in thought if deformations of thought occur independently of the will, deceptions of the senses. In the attitude to the outer world they occur in the quite unconscious, there the image of the imagination itself becomes irregular. Or else we have something like compulsive ideas, and the fact that they are compulsive ideas lifts them out of the will. But one must above all be attentive to this, whether one is dealing with a defect of will or a defect of thought. Thinking defects usually fall into the field of separate healing. Defects of the will are mostly encountered in the education of incompletely developed children.“ (Lit.:GA 317, p. 19f)

History of anthroposophical curative education

„When in 1924 a group of young people working with the handicapped approached Rudolf Steiner with the question of a renewed understanding of the human being as a basis for their work, the curative education movement was founded in the institutes at Lauenstein near Jena and under the direction of Ita Wegman (1876-1943) at Sonnenhof in Arlesheim. It is thereby ... a new impact in the development of curative education in Central Europe.

(...) The increasing loss of a religiously anchored image of man since the middle of the 19th century, which has been the signature of work with the disabled up to our century, reflects the break with the image of man of Goethe's time and for the broad social consciousness increasingly made the different person a burden to be provided for in the progressive, scientifically oriented social structures. One has to realise that a vacuum began to spread here, which an expanded thinking consciousness could not oppose at that time. In the face of a dying faith, a new certainty of knowledge about the origin, nature and development of man was no longer present. There are undoubtedly enough examples of outstanding personalities and courageous institutions in the history of the development of charitable organisations, especially in the years after 1933, who made the attempt to at least preserve the image of God in man. However, the onset of the materialistic worldview left deep traces there early on as well.

(...) There can be no doubt that a materialistic-biological way of thinking prevailed over this view of the soul-spiritual destiny of the human being in scientific and social consciousness, which had a momentous effect in the 20th century in the work with disabled people under the primacy of the hereditary determination of development. It is against this background that Rudolf Steiner's statements, when he formulated the guiding principles of anthroposophical curative education in 1924, gain their historical weight.“ (Lit.: Müller-Wiedenmann, pp. 318 - 322)

In the practice of anthroposophical curative education, great importance is attached to the collaboration of curative educators with anthroposophical doctors and curative eurythmist. No disability should be accepted as unchangeable, not even in adulthood:

„I believe it is extremely important to always remain open to the situation of disabled adults. We do the greatest and probably unforgivable injustice to a disabled adult when we accept their case as given, final and unchangeable. This is equivalent to murder.“ (Lit.: Thomas J. Weihs, p. 186)


  • Rudolf Steiner: Heilpädagogischer Kurs, GA 317 (1995), ISBN 3-7274-3171-7 English: German: pdf pdf(2) html mobi epub
  • Wilhelm Uhlenhoff: Die Kinder des Heilpädagogischen Kurses. Krankheitsbilder und Lebenswege, Vlg. Freies Geistesleben, Stuttgart 3. Auflage 2007
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  • Bernard Lievegoed: Soziale Gestaltungen am Beispiel heilpädagogischer Einrichtungen. Info3-Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 1986
  • Thomas J. Weihs: Das entwicklungsgestörte Kind. Heilpädagogische Erfahrungen in [Camphill-Gemeinschaften, Fischer TB, Frankfurt am Main 1983
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  • Volker Frielingsdorf ; Rüdiger Grimm ; Brigitte Kaldenberg : Geschichte der anthroposophischen Heilpädagogik und Sozialtherapie. Entwicklungslinien und Aufgabenfelder 1920 bis 1980, Verlag am Goetheanum, 2013, ISBN 978-3-89896-506-4