Verse, or prayer, is used throughout the day in Steiner schools and Kindergartens; there is the morning verse – a prayer to the sun-god written by Steiner, and there are verses to mark the start of lessons, the end of lessons, verses to sing whilst baking, sewing, knitting and to mark the end of the day. Often the teachers write the verses themselves.
In one of his articles Gregoire Perra mentions the significance of the birthday verse for the children in a Steiner school. Also known as the “report verse”.
In “An almost imperceptible Manipulation and Indoctrination, He talks to an old school friend and asks
“Do you remember the poems our professor used to write in the early years?”
“Yes,” he answers. “Each pupil had their own. It was an objective poetic description of our deepest personality. One year, one of our friends received such a rewarding one that he recited it to us for the next ten years. He was so bowled over by it, it was as if he became drunk.”
In Seduction I mentioned how this helps the teachers to form a close bond with each child and, as indicated in the Handbook for Waldorf class teachers, helps enable them to form the class into a “tribe” which is difficult for outsiders to handle.
In the article he also describes the realisation later that the verses are written mainly with this aim, and are not, as the child believes, written as a personal tribute;
“Something inside them preserves this nostalgic memory from a time where their very soul, was seen as it really is, in all its vulnerability, by their teachers. In principle, when such an unveiling of one’s innermost being happens – which is something rather rare – it does create lasting bonds. When one has seen the essence of someone, it engenders an enduring trust. That’s why some pupils have a rude awakening when they realise that their teachers didn’t really see that much of who they really are and were more concerned with giving the impression that they had rather than actually doing so. This can lead to serious disillusionment within these children! Once some pupils finally realise that their Steiner-Waldorf teachers didn’t truly care about what they might become, and weren’t even really concerned about who they really were, then they begin to realise that what they experienced wasn’t real. This can be very painful, which some of testimonies I’ve gathered confirm. However, they’ve actually been luckier, to realise the terrible deception they were subject to, than the other pupils who will never grasp what happened to them and will continue to suffer from the psychic manipulation deriving from it.”
The verses themselves become significant to the child, and as a result of reciting the verse regularly at school, sometimes every week or every day, the child is conditioned to remember it always.
At the Easter conference at Hereford Steiner Academy (a state-funded school) last year teachers were offered training on writing the birthday verse.
“Teachers will learn to write verses for children to balance each of the temperaments and each of the three soul forces.”
We already know about how Steiner teachers use the old (now discredited) idea of temperaments to categorise children.
There are examples of verses written for Steiner school students by their teachers, and Waldorftoday gives a detailed account of how the “report verse” is recited every day by the child and sometimes by the teacher too.
The verse is certainly a unique aspect of Steiner education, and sometimes it is described as an indication of how much teachers take an interest in individual members of their class.
A healthy interest, or a subjective, personal opinion based on the pseudoscientific idea of temperaments and which in any other school setting would be considered unprofessional?
The problems of victimisation, bullying, lack of efficiency in record-keeping and the use of unscientific, occult ideas in the Steiner classroom all seem to stem from a lack of professionalism among teachers, and the report verse is an illustration of this.