In Moravia in 1592, Comenius, one of the greatest educational theorists to date, was brought into life. From his father he received ordinary elementary and grammar school education. While attending school the incompetence of his teachers drove him to become a school reformer. Still today, 300 years later, we find his teachings to be the origins of contemporary or recent trends of thought. Comenius’s theories can be seen today through the relatively young philosophy of progressivism. Through Comenius’s views on the nature and character of society, the nature of the individual, and the nature of knowledge, one can see how his views on education may have influenced the development of progressivism.
One view that must be looked upon is the nature and character of society. Comenius believed that human society is an educative society: though this idea is not explicitly stated until the nineteenth century. In other words society teaches all things to all men and from all view points as well as the fundamental union between the educational ideal and the ideal of international organization. This then proceeds into the nature of the individual.
The nature of the individual should also be considered when looking into Comenius’s philosophy. Comenius believed in three main issues that cannot be separated. These three aspects consist of Erudition, virtue or seemly morals, and religion or piety. In other words, we comprehend the knowledge of all things, arts, and tongue; under virtue, not only external decorum, but the whole disposition of our internal and external movements; while by religion we understand that inner veneration by which the mind of man attaches to the supreme Godhead (Reisner 24). Comenius states that, "In these three things is situated the whole excellence of man, for they alone are the foundation of the present and the future" (Reisner, 24). All other things (beauty, riches, strength, long life) only lead to harmful destruction if he should greedily gape after them and overwhelm himself with them. Along the lines of virtue, Comenius believed that the seeds of virtue are born with man. However this belief is bound up in a twofold argument. Comenius states, "…every man delights in harmony; man himself, externally and internally, is nothing but a harmony" (Reisner 30). In other words, just like a piece of clock work where throughout the whole structure one part depends on the other, and the movements are perpetuated and harmonized; mans body functions in the same respect. Thus we do not forthwith pronounce it to be of no further use if it becomes disorganized and corrupt; thus with regard to man, no matter how disorganized by his fall into sin, he can, through the grace of god and by certain methods, be restored to harmony again (Reisner 32). Therefore throughout life each man strives to keep harmony internally and externally. Without it he would be lost and self-destruction would slowly take its course. Another aspect that Comenius believes is naturally planted into humans is the seeds of knowledge.
Comenius also flows the nature of knowledge into his philosophy. In his epistemological view he believes that the seed of knowledge is planted into man. Therefore it is not necessary to have anything brought to man from the outside, but only that that which he possesses rolled up within hisself should be unfolded and disclosed. Comenius explains that since everything in the universe can either be seen, heard, smelled, tasted, and touched, it follows that there is nothing which cannot be compassed by a man endowed with sense and reason. Therefore all things exist in man, and that only if he is sufficiently skilled to strike the sparks to bring out his knowledge will he ever reap the fullest enjoyment of the marvelous treasures of gods wisdom. The truth of this is backed by the early years of childhood where the five senses are in search of food, and in return brings forth the knowledge. Comenius states, "…for an active nature nothing is so intolerable as ease and sloth" (Reisner 28). Therefore man has a natural desire for the wealth of knowledge and even the ignorant wish to be partakers of this wisdom, if they could only deem it possible. For Comenius believes the true nature of thought and knowledge is expressed in the comparison of the brain and the wax. He states, " For just as wax, taking every form, allows itself to be remodeled in any desired way, so the brain receiving the images of all things, takes into itself what ever is contained in the whole universe" (Reisner 29). Therefore he proves further that with the aid of our organs of sense all that lies without can be compassed. Out of Comenius’s three views on the nature and character of society, the nature of the individual, and the nature of knowledge the role or aims and purposes of education are produced.
Taking in the principles based on the nature and character of society, the nature of the individual, and the nature of knowledge the roles or aims and purposes of education is manifested. In his belief that the seeds of knowledge, of virtue, and of piety are naturally implanted in us he theorizes that the actual knowledge, virtue, and piety are not given, but is a role that education is partly responsible for. He believed that thanks to the parallelism between man and nature this educative process is made more automatic. Therefore an important role in education is to help in the integral part of the formative process to which all beings are subject and only one aspect of that vast development (Cremin 6). An aim of education therefore is to be there to serve and develop everyone as humans, even for the clever who may need it far more. Comenius states, "… since an active mind, if not occupied with useful things, will busy itself with what is useless, curious, and pernicious; and just as the more fertile a field is, the richer the crop of thorns and of thistles that it can produce" (Reisner 37). Therefore excellence becomes filled with fanciful notions, and through education it is sown with the seeds of wisdom and of virtue. Other aims include that "…talents may be cultivated by study of the sciences and of the arts, languages be learn, honest morals may be formed, and God be sincerely worshipped" (Cremin 45). With his view on what aims, roles, and purposes education serve, he defines education.
Comenius’s aims, roles, and purposes on education develops the idea that education is far more then just the vehicle for knowledge but for other things as well. Cremin states, " Education, according to Comenius, is not merely the training of the child at school or in the home; it is a process affecting man’s whole life and the countless social adjustments he must make" (Cremin 4). He also believes education should not just be for the children of the rich or the powerful, but for all. Another of Comenius’s ideas on how education should be defined is based on the exact order in all things. In other words, the teachings of all things to all men, should be, and can be, borrowed from no other source then the operations of nature. These ideas and theories later influenced the development of what we call now progressivism.
Today Comenius’s views can be best seen in progressivism. Progressivism believes that the child is naturally good and learns by doing and by discovering things. Comenius also had this in mind when he believed children should be
Word Count: 1257