Johann Amos Comenius (1592-1671) was a famous Czech educator and bishop of the Moravian and Bohemian Brethren church.
In the field of education, Comenius became famous for his work in organizing schools, formulating a general theory of education and writing textbooks.
Comenius conceived and published a practical way of teaching languages, one edition of which in 1658 was the first children's picture book. He also published three history books about the Bohemians.
With The Great Didactic, completed in 1631, Comenius presented his theory of education, which promoted a democratic form of education centered in the liberal arts, but including the instilling of piety and morals. He purported to use the scientific method in his conception of education. The Encyclopedia Americana believed he succeeded in co-ordinating a sound theory of educational ideals in spite of a lack of scientific rigor, but the New International Encyclopedia believed he faithfully followed in the footsteps of Francis Bacon's application of a new scientific method to the subject of educational theory. Comenius was also one of the first to advocate the teaching of science in school.
In his lifetime, Comenius enjoyed an exalted reputation in educational theory, but was denied the opportunity of executing it on a large scale on behalf of important audiences interested in seeing it applied in their spheres of influence. He was invited by British Parliament to use his theories to reform the schooling of Great Britain, but the use of his methods lost out through Parliament using John Locke's prescribed methods instead.
He was then invited to reform Sweden's schools, but when the Poles invaded the city where he lived, he lost nearly all his manuscripts during a fire. After Comenius moved back to Lissa beginning in 1654, he again lost many manuscripts during a war in Poland.
Comenius was also a theologian; his writings record his strange mystical beliefs about the Millenium and the meaning of the European political situation of the time.
The Great Didactic (1633)
Comenius' introduction to The Great Didactic reads:
- Let the main object of this, our Didactic, be as follows: To seek and to find a method of instruction, by which teachers may teach less, but learners may learn more; by which schools may be the scene of less noise, aversion, and useless labour, but of more leisure, enjoyment, and solid progress; and through which the Christian community may have less darkness, perplexity, and dissension, but on the other hand more light, orderliness, peace, and rest.
- God be merciful unto us and bless us, and cause his face to shine upon us;
- That thy way may be known upon earth, thy saving health among all nations.—Psalm lxvii. 1, 2.
Comenius believed education should imitate nature (the world of living things) and derived nine principles of nature to be the subject of imitation for learning:
- Nature obseves a suitable time.
- Nature prepares the material, before she begins to give it form.
- Nature chooses a fit subject to act upon, or first submits one to a suitable treatment in order to make it fit.
- Nature is not confused in its operations, but in its forward progress advances distinctly from one point to another.
- In all the operations of nature development is from within.
- Nature, in its formative processes, begins with the universal and ends with the particular.
- Nature makes no leaps, but proceeds step by step.
- If nature commence anything, it does not leave off until the operation is completed.
- Nature carefully avoids obstacles and things likely to cause hurt.
- "Comenius, Johann Amos" (1911). Encyclopedia Britannica (11th ed., Cambridge, Cambridge University Press).
- "Comenius, Johann Amos" (1905). New International Encyclopedia (1st ed., New York, Dodd, Mead).
- Meiklejohn, Alexander (1942). Education between Two Worlds (New York: Harper and Bros.), book 1, ch. 2, pp. 20-21.
- Adler, Mortimer J. (1984). The Paideia Program (New York: Macmillan), p. v.
- Comenius, Johann Amos (1633). The Great Didactic, translated by M. W. Keating (London: Adam and Charles Black, 1907), ch. XXIII-XXIV, pp. 211-230.
- "Comenius, Johann Amos" (1920). Encyclopedia Americana (New York: The Encyclopedia Americana Corporation).
- Meiklejohn, pp. 13-14.
- Comenius, p. 4.
- Comenius, ch. XVI, pp. 111-126.