Jan Amos Comenius (1592-1671), Czech educational reformer
John Amos Comenius [Jan Amos Comenius] was the antithesis to Sturm, and a greater man than Ratke. Born a Moravian, he passed a wandering life, among the troubles of the Thirty Years War, in poverty and obscurity. But his ideas were accepted by the most advanced thinkers of the age, notably in many re-spects by our own Milton, and by Oxenstiern the chancellor of Sweden.
His school books were spread throughout Europe. The Janna Linguarum Reserata was translated into twelve European and several Asiatic languages. His works, especially the Didascalia magna, an encyclopaedia of the science of education, are constantly reprinted at the present day; and the system which he sketched will be found to foreshadow the education of the future.
He was repelled and disgusted by the long delays and pedantries of the schools. His ardent mind conceived that if teachers would but follow nature instead of forcing it against its bent, take full advantage of the innate desire for activity and growth, all men might be able to learn all things.
Languages should be taught as the mother tongue is taught, by conversationn on ordinary topics; pictures, object lessons, should be freely used; teaching should go hand in hand with a cheerful, elegant, and happy life. Comenius included in his course the teaching of the mother tongue, singing, economy, and politics, the history of the world, physical geography, and a knowledge of arts and handicrafts.
But the principle on which he most insisted, which forms the special point of his teaching, and in which he is followed by Milton, is that the teaching of words and things must go together hand in hand. When we consider how much time is spent over new languages what waste of energy is lavished on mere preparation, how it takes so long to lay a foundation that there is no time to rear a building upon it, we must conclude that it is in the acceptance and development of this principle that the improvement of education will in the future consist. Anyone who attempts to inculcate this great reform will find that its first principles are contained in the writings of Comenius.
But this is not the whole of his claim upon our gratitude. He was one of the first advocates of the teaching of science in schools. His kindness, gentleness, and sympathy make him the forerunner of Pestalozzi. His general principles of education would not sound strange in the treatise of Herbert Spencer.
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