22 January 2013

The Father of Modern Education

Jan Amos Comenius (1592 -- 1671) is often referred to as "The Father of Modern Education." A pretty lofty title for someone you probably never heard of, right?

Comenius was a Bohemian (Czech) pastor and educator. He lived a life of exile and difficulty, losing two wives along the way. Europe was wracked with war for most of his life and Comenius managed to get in the way of it often. The various phases of the Thirty Years War (1618-1648) were waged throughout much of the adulthood of Comenius. It is commonly accepted that this lengthy war began with what has become known as the "Defenestration of Prague."

Back to Comenius. As he traveled and lived in exile, he also wrote. His great interest was the reforming of education. Dr. C. Matthew McMahon writes:
His contributions to the educational scene are immeasurable in many ways, and, as stated before, he is deemed the “Father of Modern Education.” He answered the question “Is there a way to teach children pleasantly, but quickly at the same time?” in a most biblical and helpful manner. The various schools of his day thought this was impossible. They leaned upon corporeal discipline to the extreme, and neglected the teaching of girls altogether. Comenius though that learning should be done in the home (following thoughts surrounding catechizing that began during the Reformation) and thus by parents, which would have included the mother. If mothers, then, were not educated, then children would not be educated as well. He wrote the book The Great Didactic (published in 1657 in Holland) that encompassed a Christian worldview in learning from God’s second book – nature, and aiding parents in helping their children learn about god in every way possible. Children in Comenius day were trained to repeat memorized Latin vocabulary and conjugations, but they were not taught to think well. If one cannot think well, how can they learn or understand a given proposition? Education for Comenius stretches beyond the boundaries of the classroom and encompasses all of life.
Comenius believed in the principle called "pansophy." "For Comenius there was always only one truth. The light of reason must submit in obedience to the will of God. This is Comenius’s fundamental pedagogical and pansophic principle." (see this article at Christian History).

So, according to Comenius, education is not rote learning in a classroom, although he did not advocate abandoning the classroom. Rather, a full-orbed education of all people (males and females to be included) with an emphasis on understanding God's universe, is essential. The above-mentioned article in Christian History closes this way:
In Christ Comenius found the light of his life. In the midst of tumultous events he sang out his love to Christ in a large number of songs. It was to Christ that he yielded himself. Above all else he bequeathed to his descendants in the Unity the love of the pure truth of God and his Word. Having found his hope in Christ, Comenius drew from him all his life.
Worthy of some further reading, don't you agree?

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