temperamenten och waldorfskolan

Jag tycker ni ska läsa detta. Det är ett utdrag ur ett kapitel ur Liebendörfers ännu ej utkomna bok. Texten handlar om temperamentslärans användning i waldorfskolan. Ni vet, de fyra antika temperamentstyperna: melankolisk, kolerisk, flegmatisk, sangvinisk. Användningen av dem, och klassificeringen och behandlingen av barn utifrån dem, är tämligen viktig i waldorfpedagogiken. Här är ett citat:

Inget temperament är bättre än ett annat! Temperamentet beskriver grundläggande och karakteristiska drag hos en människa. […] Genom att studera konkreta situationer kan man bilda sig en klarare uppfattning om vilket temperament det handlar om: Hur löser barnet en konflikt? Hur tar barnet en motgång? Hur tar barnet kontakt? Hur man sedan hjälper barnet att utveckla temperamentet beror mycket på helhetsbilden och i vilken ålder barnet är. […] Vikten av att studera barnet noga hjälper pedagogen och visar temperamentet, som beskriver hur barnet förhåller sig till omvärlden och hur det tar emot intryck. Temperamentet genomgår en utveckling under barndomen, det börjar oftast bli mer aktivt och tydligt vid skolstarten.
Läraren kan påverka barnets temperament, genom att stödja det i sitt sätt att försöka bemästra det.

Är det rätt att lärare, utan utbildning i psykologi (dock, om de är waldorflärarutbildade, givetvis med utbildning i antroposofi), försöker ‘diagnostisera’ barnet utifrån temperamentsläran? Är det, förutsatt att det ens är riktigt att diagnostisera barn på det här viset, rätt att ‘hjälp[a] barnet utveckla temperamentet’ eller att ‘påverka barnets temperament’? Och då menar jag — är det rätt av skolpersonal som saknar adekvat utbildning att leka med barns psykiska hälsa på det här viset? Visserligen menar de båda Liebendörfers att det inte är barnets temperament som påverkas utan omgivningens förhållningssätt till barnet (som jag förstår det). Det är något oklart uttryckt vad som menas med det, och jag vet inte eller på vilka grunder de drar slutsatsen att barnets temperament inte påverkas. Det verkar ju snarast, av styckena innan att döma, vara en av poängerna. Dessutom förstår jag inte vilken skillnad det gör. Naturligtvis kommer barnet att påverkas, om inte annat indirekt, av att omgivningen — främst läraren — påverkas och därmed behandlar barnet annorlunda, baserat på en pseudovetenskaplig ‘diagnos’. Så även om barnets grundtemperament inte påverkas, är det omöjligt att barnet inte påverkas när omgivningen utgår från att barnet är, till exempel, melankoliker och låter behandlingen av barnet styras av denna förvissning.

Ja, jag vet, lärare måste förhålla sig till barnen på något vis, och självklart ser lärare att barn är olika, tänker olika, känner olika, hanterar världen olika, och givetvis betyder det att lärare måste förhålla sig olika beroende på barnets personlighet och behov. (Idealt sett ser väl den vanliga läraren barnen som individer — inte som knippen personlighetsdrag eller temperamentsrepresentanter.)

Frågan är dock: är temperamentsläran ett relevant och riktigt verktyg?

(Vi har diskuterat temperamenten i otaliga kommentarstrådar här (t ex i denna tråd nyligen), men här är några gamla inlägg.)

9 thoughts on “temperamenten och waldorfskolan

  1. When Steiner spoke about the temperaments it was mainly in the context of how a single teacher – no assistants in those days – can handle a class of up to 50 children.

    It is almost impossible to respond to individual needs once there are more than 30 in the class.

    A developmental schema, such as those of Piaget or Frobel, Vygotsky or Steiner, or a diagnosis such as Asperger’s syndrome is a tool that can help a teacher form an idea of what is happening with a child as their behoviour patterns develop and change. But if the schema becomes prescriptive or the diagnosis ’embedded in concrete’ then they are destructive in that they prevent the teacher seeing what the needs or abilities of an individual really are.

    Sometimes the ‘developmental schema’ may be there in a teacher’s mind without them being aware of it. To take an example form a slightly different context – pre-school – it was always assumed that children learn to speak through imitation.
    This seems to be obvious if your (hidden) developmental schema regards the child as a blank slate on which experience writes.

    But experience shows that young children do not simply imitate. They use a syntax which they do not hear being spoken around them. My 21 month old grand-daughter gets annoyed and shouts, ‘Me do! Me do!’ if anyone trise to put her shoes on her. None of the adults around her ever say, “Me do!”

    In the 70’s of the last century, the teaching of formal arithmetic was almost abandoned in London Schools because of a dogma around children learning through experience. ‘Learning by rote’ was castigated. At the same time there was a feeling that maths attainment was very low and getting worse. Meanwhile the Korean and Japanese children learned maths very well ‘by rote’. and had no problem with applied maths

    So for me the problem is not with the use of temperaments as a way of understanding why a child behaves as he or she does, but with the insensitivity and inflexibility of a particular teacher.

    An analogy would be the use of Transactional Analysis as a tool to understand adult behaviour. It can yield useful insights, but to take it as a dogma is not helpful at all.

  2. Oh dear — I’ve missed your comment, Falk.

    First — I’d like to send my choleric-melancholic applause to Leif Harald Liebendörfer’s comment here: http://bit.ly/Iy2gnI (Warning: Sorry, Swedish again.)

    Second, falk’s comment.

    ‘But if the schema becomes prescriptive or the diagnosis ‘embedded in concrete’ then they are destructive’

    Exactly.

    ‘But experience shows that young children do not simply imitate. They use a syntax which they do not hear being spoken around them. My 21 month old grand-daughter gets annoyed and shouts, ‘Me do! Me do!’ if anyone trise to put her shoes on her. None of the adults around her ever say, “Me do!”’

    According to some popular waldorf beliefs, one must conclude you actually say that! But, yes, you’re right of course — they don’t simply imitate. If they did, things would be very different.

    ‘So for me the problem is not with the use of temperaments as a way of understanding why a child behaves as he or she does, but with the insensitivity and inflexibility of a particular teacher.’

    Yes, mainly correct. One wonders, though, if having easy access to simplified explanations and theories is an asset or a drawback. It’s much easier to be insensitive and inflexible, and if you can jusitfy it with pedagogical ideas that are well-established within the movement/the school… it’s the easy route to use them, isn’t it? Why learn to rely on a theory that’s not all that good to fall back on, lazily, anyway? Is the temperament doctrine so useful that it’s worth taking that risk? Or are there other models that are more accurate, more successful or at least less ‘risky’?

  3. Seems it is a waste of energy to write on the Liebendörfers’ blogs because comments are outmoderated when it gets interesting. And it’s probably better that “complementary” views comes from within the movement. I saw that they mentioned William B. Carey who has been researching temperaments. And that he might have similar views of them. Funny, if they are aware of relatively modern research in this area, why not use it? Why stick with the outdated theory?

    BTW, here is a model Carey seems to favor:

    “activity, biologic rhythmicity, approach/withdrawal (initial reaction), adaptability, intensity, mood, persistence/attention span, distractibility, and sensory threshold (sensitivity).”

    From Developmental-behavioral pediatrics ed. William B. Carey (2009)

    Perhaps he should have advocated seven dimensions instead of nine …

  4. ‘Funny, if they are aware of relatively modern research in this area, why not use it? Why stick with the outdated theory?’

    You’ve got things backwards, Ulf. New theories are only here to verify that the old anthroposophical theories were correct all the time. Or at least, somehow (it’s not always easy to know exactly how), they’re not incompatible with modern research. It’s a tricky business!

    (Nine can also be a magic number, but seven is much better. Eight or ten, however… would be huge mistake.)

    Perhaps it is better — though I certainly don’t know how! — that complementary views come from within the movement. That particular one was unusually good and insightful though…

  5. To any normal teacher, the advice offered above would seem like som kind of mad, bad and dangerous science fiction. Why would anyone bother to CREATE anger and trouble in the classroom? She advises seating according to temperament, which would make phlegmatics ‘explode’ and cholerics ‘discover’ the benefits of a more calm behaviour. Unfortunately this is no funny unique exception, it is entirely consistent with the Cruel Karma ideology of anthroposophy. And even worse, obviously also with waldorf practice …

  6. Now, in normal schools, they’d place the choleric with the melancholic, whereupon the choleric would disturb the melancholic constantly until the melancholic has a break-down. refuses to return to school, his parents has to call the school and to tell them to remove the choleric… It’s difficult to know what to do with students who constantly disrupt the education of course. Place them with other disruptive students, they incite each other. Place them with silent students, you drive these students crazy too, because they want to be left alone.

    I doubt that this does anything either to the cholerics or the phlegmatics. The cholerics will entice each other — they’ll have fun and learn nothing. Phlegmatics seem to enjoy each others’ company even if they’d bore anybody else to death.

    (I personally remember sitting next to different kinds of people in waldorf. And although the teacher determined the arrangements, I do think different things were tried and often friends were allowed to sit together… so I don’t think the temperament stuff was applied strictly. I’m sure this can differ and that a teacher like Lundmark would probably have been quite dogmatic… But her book is not very old — it’s from 1984.)

  7. Alicia, your comment and your experiences nicely illustrates the overwhelming complexity of the challenges teachers have to face every day. That’s one of the reasons simplifying systems of thought are so useful – and seductive! Which is why they (spiritual and scientific) should be carefully balanced against teachers empathy, common sense and practical wisdom. The Temperament Complex of waldorf pedagogy doesn’t pass that test. What is perhaps even worse in practical terms, is that it strengthens the focus on INDIVIDUALS. If teachers had more training, supervision and better theories about how classroom GROUPS function, even more pupils would live in a friendly, fun and learning group of classmates. I have met many such groups! They probably exist in some waldorf schools too, but temperamental thinking is less than helpful in this respect.

  8. ‘What is perhaps even worse in practical terms, is that it strengthens the focus on INDIVIDUALS.’

    This is also quite paradoxical, since, in particular in the early years, the waldorf focus is entirely on the group while the individual is considered to, well, not have developed much individuality yet.

    Not that they know how groups work either. Or individuals.

    I was surprised Lundmark’s book wasn’t older. Not that I should be surprised. After all, there’s not much saying waldorf schools are getting less dogmatic with their most cherished theories.

Comments are closed.