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Some brief Notes on Jan Amos Comenius

By Dr. C. Matthew McMahon


Have you ever heard of Jan Amos Comenius? Do not be too overwhelmed with grief if you have not. In our day, most of the
world has not heard of him. Regardless of your denominational distinction, Comenius is someone Christians should become
familiar with. He wrote over 154 books in his lifetime, even after all of his original manuscripts were burned during a rebellion
in Holland. He was an amazing and prolific educator, and has been stamped The Father of Modern Education.
Born March 28, 1592, orphaned early, educated at the universities of Herborn and Heidelberg, Comenius began working as a
pastor and parochial school principal in 1618, the year the Thirty Years war began. After the defeat of the Protestant armies in
the Battle of White Mountain one of the most disastrous events in Czech historyhe barely escaped with his life while
enemy soldiers burned down his house. Later, his young wife and two small children died of the plague. For seven years he
lived the life of a fugitive in his own land, hiding in deserted huts, in caves, even in hollow trees. Early in 1628 he joined one of
the small groups of Protestants who fled their native Moravia to await better times in neighboring Poland. He never saw his
homeland again.[1]
For 42 years of his long and sorrowful life he roamed the countries of Europe as a homeless refugee. He was always poor. His
second wife died, too, leaving him with four children to care for. The political allies of the Czech nation either died or were
killed in the war. The beloved fatherland lay in total desolation. The scattered, impoverished church whose bishop he had
become was in danger of disintegrating after years of exile. The Polish city of Leszno, his home for a number of years, was
burned to the ground by the enemy. His treasured library and numerous manuscripts some of them results of decades of
work were totally destroyed in the fire, leaving Comenius, an old man of 64, with virtually nothing but the clothes on his back.
Homeless and penniless, he made it to Amsterdam, Holland, where friends took him in and cared for him until his death in
1670. [2]
Comenius was a minister (an elder or bishop) of a church known as Unitas Fratrum (The Unity of Brethren), which attained
great theological, literary and cultural achievements immediately preceding the Thirty Years War. While small in numbers, it
spurred the whole Czech nation to great cultural advancement. The Brethren were exiled but saw themselves as guardians of
Czech spiritual treasures. Hoping that one day they would return home, they were trying to prepare for the great task of
rebuilding the land and the society devastated by war, and they knew that education would play a vital part in it. The Brethren
did not believe they were the one true church without which you could not be saved, but part of the universal church in the
world. No doubt there was much that influenced their thinking through Wickliffe missionaries to their country, and then later
by Jan Hus in Bohemia. This Unity branch of Christians were heavily influenced by the Reformation started at the time of Hus
(13691415). This Reformation did not die out in Bohemia when he was burned at the stake. A number of small communities
spun off from the Hussites, each rebelling against Rome in their own ways. They said, Thus believing according to the Holy Writ
in a Holy Church, we do not hold that we alone compose the Holy Catholic Church, or that salvation is obtained only among us,
or that we alone shall be saved. Comenius was also not settled on the issue of predestination (he may have been more akin to
an Amyraldian concept (a mix or rather confusion of issues in this way) but was very set upon bringing the church together an
unifying her), or some of the controversies at the time on the Lords Supper between the Reformed church and the Lutherans.
Comenius wife and children died of the plague. Shortly thereafter his country was thrown into greater war and turmoil. The
Unity of the Brethren was dying out, with Comenius as the most prominent figure of their church movement. In 1632 he
became the bishop of his church. It was after the battle of White Mountain in Bohemia in 1620 and their banishment from the
country that the church became all but extinct. He led a small group of people over the mountains into Poland in hopes that the
hidden seed of faith that was ready to sprout would come forth. He found refuge for a short while there. He remarried, but his
second wife also died leaving him with four children, and he married again, his third wife outliving him.
His life was characterized by constant moving, despair and turmoil (this was part of the reason his second wife became ill and
died). However, he composed many works on education and became famous all through Europe through his writings. He
published some of the first picture books for children, as well as writing a work around pansophic principles that gained him
wide renown. What does pansophic actually refer to? Comenius believed there was only one truth. The light of reason must
submit in obedience to the will of God. This is Comeniuss fundamental pedagogical and pansophic principle. In England the
English, unknowingly to him, published his notes on the topic, and then invited him to come to England to work there in
opening a new school. After arriving, unfortunately, civil war broke out and stopped the possibility of a school.
Comenius then traveled to Sweden, though invited by both France and Holland, to continue his work. He had faith in the
Swedish chancellor Oxenstierna, to implore him to help the Bohemian people when the treaty of peace would calm the
tumultuous storms of the countrys affairs. The Treaty of Westphalia was pivotal in ceasing the Thirty Years War but it was
more of a help to Lutherans and Calvinists rather than some of the small groups. The brethren in Bohemia whom he longed to
care for were still oppressed. Oxenstierna had forgotten him. Unfortunately, Comenius never returned home, and died while in
Holland.
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 Gods 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.
Some principles Comenius observed in nature applicable to education:
1. Nature observes a suitable time.
2. Nature prepares the material, before she begins to give it form.
3. Nature chooses a fit subject to act upon, or first submits one to a suitable treatment in order to make it fit.
4. Nature is not confused in its operations, but in its forward progress advances distinctly from one point to another.
5. In all the operations of nature, development is from within.
6. Nature, in its formative processes, begins with the universal and ends with the particular.
7. Nature makes no leaps, but proceeds step by step.
8. If nature commences anything, it does not leave off until the operation is completed.
9. Nature carefully avoids obstacles and things likely to cause hurt.[3]
His most famous works include: The Labyrinth of the World and the Paradise of the Heart (1620-27) on how the world around
him at the time was degrading (set in an allegory like Bunyans Pilgrims Progress), The School of Infancy (1631) focusing on the
early years of the childs education, Janua Linguarum Reserata (1632) for language studies, The Way of Light (1641) a universal
plan of education and peace, Lux en Tenebris (1650) on prophetic visions for the Unity of the Brethren, Opera Didactrica (1657)
all his educational works, and Orbis Pictus (1658) the first picture book for children.
For more information, see the Christian History magazine on Jan Comenius. 1987 and their reference list:
The Angel of Peace, Pantheon Books, New York 1944.
Introduction by Jean Paiget, John Amos Comenius on Education, Teachers College Press, Colombia University, New York 1967.
The Labyrinth of the World, National Union of Czechoslovak Protestants, Chicago 1942.
The School of Infancy, University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill 1956.
Vladimir Jelinek. The Analytical Didactic of Comenius, University of Chicago Press, Chicago 1953.
Wilhelmus Rood. Comenius and the Low Countries, Abner Schram, New York 1970.
Matthew Spinka. John Amos Comenius, that Incomparable Moravian, University of Chicago Press, Chicago 1943.
G. H. Turnbull. Samuel Hartlib. A Sketch of His Life and His Relations To J. A. Comenius, Oxford University Press, London 1920.
R. F. Young. Comenius in England 1641/2, Oxford University Press, London 1932.

[1]Christian History : Jan Comenius. 1987; Published in electronic form by Logos Research Systems, 1996 (electronic ed.). Carol
Stream IL: Christianity Today.
[2]Ibid.
[3]Christian History : Jan Comenius. 1987; Published in electronic form by Logos Research Systems, 1996 (electronic ed.). Carol
Stream IL: Christianity Today.

John Amos Comenius
The great bronze statue of John Amos Comenius (1592-1670) on Moravian's campus depicts him as a fierce old man. It may
reflect Comenius's reaction to being driven from one home after another by religious wars and persecution, watching his first
wife and their two children die under refugee conditions, and being continually misled by false hopes of returning to his
homeland. But it may be an expression of his enduring rage at the educational conditions of his time, a rage he never directed
at students, but always at the difficulties they faced in learning.
Throughout his life he tried to improve the ways students were taught. His first success in this area was a beginning Latin
textbook, Janua Linguarum Reserata ("The Gate of Languages Unlocked"), published in 1631. Much later in life, he showed that
he still had the needs of beginners on his mind, producing the first-ever children's picture book, Orbis Pictus ("The World
Illustrated"), published in 1658. Both these books became best-sellers, translated into every major European language and used
by beginning learners for over a hundred years.
Comenius's most important work, however, was written between 1628 and 1632, first in Czech and then in Latin: the Didactica
Magna, usually called in English The Great Didactic. Perhaps a more meaningful translation would be "The Whole Art of
Teaching." It explored how people learn and how they should be taught from infancy through the university and beyond.
Published in 1649, it was a radical work for its time. In an age when people believed that human beings were born naturally evil
and that goodness and knowledge had to be beaten into them, Comenius believed that they were born with a natural craving
for knowledge and goodness, and that schools beat it out of them.
Although he did not use the modern words (nor did the Victorian translator who made his work available in English), Comenius
addressed such topics as
Education for everyone
Students' natural tendency to learn
Learning by easy stages
Financial aid
Career preparation
Extracurricular activities
Lifelong learning
It is thanks to him that educators today think these things are important.

PHILOSOPHY OF EDUCATION OF JOHN AMOS COMENIUS
Introduction
Have you ever heard of John Amos Comenius, or Jan Amos Komensky? Do not
Be too overwhelmed with grief if you have not. In our day, most of the world has not
heard of him. Regardless of your denominational distinction, Comenius is someone
Christians, most specifically educators and students should become familiar with. He
wrote over 154 books in his lifetime, even after all his original manuscripts were burned
during a rebellion in Holland. He was an amazing and prolific educator, and has been
stamped The Father of Modern Education and Teacher of Nations.
His Life
Comenius was born March 28, 1592, and was orphaned early, because his
parents died of a plague in 1604. Educated at the universities of Herborn and Heidelberg,
Comencius began working as a pastor and parochial school principal in 1618, the year the
Thirty Years war began. After the defeat of the Protestant armies in the Battle of White
Mountain one of the most disastrous events in Czech history he barely escaped with
his wife while the enemy soldiers burned down his house. Later, his young wife and two
small children died of plague. For seven years he lived the life of a fugitive in his town
land, hiding in deserted huts, in caves, even in hollow trees. Early in 1628, he joined one
of the small groups of Protestants who fled their native Moravia to await better times in
neighboring Poland. He never saw his homeland again.
For 42 years of his long and sorrowful life he had roamed the countries of Europe
as a homeless refugee. He was always poor. His life was characterized by constant
moving, despair, and turmoil (this was part of the reason why his second wife became
ill). His second wife died too, leaving him with four children to care for. However, he
composed many works on education and became famous all throughout Europe through
his writings. He published some of the first picture books for children, as well as write a
work around pansophic principles that gained him world fame.
What does pansophic actually refer to? Comencius believed there was only one
truth. The light of reason must submit in obedience to the will of God. This is
Comencius fundamental, pedagogical and pansophic priciple.KINAADMAN An Interdisciplinary Research Journal
Vol. 18, No. 2 October 2007
Holy Name University, Tagbilaran City, Bohol
In England, the English unknown to him, published his notes on the topic, and
then invited him to come to England to work there in opening a new school. Upon
arriving, unfortunately, civil war broke out and stopped the possibility of a school.
Comencius then traveled to Sweden, though invited by both France and Holland to
continue his work. He had faith in the Swedish chancellor Oxenstierna, to implore him to
help the Bohemian people when the treaty of peace would calm the tumultuous storms of
the countrys affairs. The treaty of Westphalia was pivotal in ceasing the Thirty Years
War but it was more of a help to the Lutherans and the Calvinists rather than some of the
small groups. The Brethren in Bohemian whom he longed to care for were still
oppressed. Oxenstierna had forgotten him. The political allies of the Czech nation either
died or were killed in the war. The beloved fatherland lay in total desolation. The
scattered, impoverished church whose bishop he had become was in danger of
disintegrating after years of exile. The polish city of Lezno, his home for a number of
years, was burned to the ground by the enemy. His treasured library and numerous
manuscripts some of them were results of decades of work were totally destroyed by
fire, leaving Comencius, an old man of 64, with virtually nothing but the clothes on his
back. Homeless and penniless, he made it to Amsterdam, Holand, where friends took
him in and cared for him until his death in 1670.
His Achievements
Comencius contributions to the educational scene are immeasurable in many
ways. He pioneered modern educational methods. He wrote several textbooks on
Education. These were so original that they won him the name Father of Modern
Education. And because of his efforts on behalf of universal education, he earned the
title of Teacher of Nations.
His Works and Contributions
Visionary and innovator
He thinks in bigger pictures and he believed that much of lives learning should be
woven together, a concept he called VIA LUCIS (Way of Light), a universal plan of
education and peace.
Philosopher
He was able to develop a philosophy called Pansophism and Realism
Bishop
He was a bishop of the Unitas Fratrum (The Unity of Brethren), commonly
known as Moravian Church in Moravia, which attained great theological, literary andKINAADMAN An Interdisciplinary Research
Journal Vol. 18, No. 2 October 2007
Holy Name University, Tagbilaran City, Bohol
cultural achievements immediately preceding the Thirty Years War. Being a bishop, his
religious beliefs were also incorporated into his teachings.
Writer
He published 154 books, most dealing with educational Philosophy and Theology.
Educator/Teacher/Rector
He was once an educator/teacher during his times in Poland, Sweden,
England, and Holland. He advocated the use of visual aids in classroom teaching. Like
modern educators, he used pictures, maps, charts, and other visual aids. He even brought
drama into the classroom. He believed learning should be interesting, dramatic, and
stimulating.
Realist
He was a realist who states that knowledge comes primarily through the senses.
He believed that education was founded on the training of sense perception rather than on
pure memory activities.
He introduced the inductive method of learning wherein the examples are given
first before the concept. Being a realist, his ideas about nature set the tone of his works.
Leader
He was a leader of the persecuted Protestant Unity of Czech.
His Contributions
1. ORBIS SENSUALISM PICTUS (1638) The Visible World in Pictures
It is a book for learning Latin which is believed to be the first illustrated textbook
of Janua Linguarium Reserata. It is the first ever childrens picture book. He felt it was
necessary for children to see what the world looks like with the help of pictures. It
became best sellers and was translated in the year 1659 into every major European
language, and was used by beginning learners for over 200 years.
2. JANUA LINGUARIUM RESERATA (1631) The Gate of Tongues Unlocked
This book is an introduction to Latin grammar, and contains the outline of his
method of teaching languages through the vernacular and of relating Latin to the
vernacular through parallel passages and illustrations.
3. DIDACTICA MAGNA (1628-1632) The Great
The most important work of Comencius. This book explored how people learn
and how they should be taught from infancy through the university and beyond. This
book also described a very different educational system. He believed that schools should
be organized in stages from easy to difficult. Comencius believed that human beings
were born with a natural craving for knowledge and that schools beat it out of them.
Comencius addressed topics such as:
a. Education for Everyone
b. Students natural tendency to learn
c. Learning by each stages
d. Cliff Notes
e. Finalcial Aid
f. Career Preparation
g. Extracurricular activities
h. Lifelong Learning
4. Realism
Realism is education in which natural phenomena and social institutions rather
than language and literature, is the chief subject of the study. It is also considered as an
educational philosophy, which advocates that education should be concerned with the
realities of life and should prepare a person for his/her duties in life. Comencius himself
is a realist, a sense realist who states that knowledge comes primarily through the senses.
Education was founded on the training of sense perception rather than on pure memory
activities. Sense realism condemns the use of excessive and harsh discipline in learning,
Realists like Comenius introduce the inductive method of learning or teaching.
5. Pansophism
From the persecutions and hardships he suffered in his life, he came to develop a
philosophy, called Pansophism. This philosophy emphasized political unity, religious
reconciliation, and cooperation in education. The philosophy of pansophism related
education to everyday life and called for a systematic relationship to be developed for all
knowledge. He advocated teaching in the common vernacular language of students rather
than in Latin, and the establishment of the universal system of education with
opportunities that included women and people of all nations.
Pansophism which means all knowledge, attempted to incorporate theology,
philosophy and education into one. Spiritual, philosophical and scientific learning is
integrated. He believed that learning spiritual and emotional growths were all woven
together.
The philosophy of pansophism presented the goal of education as the
development of universal knowledge among all people, including women and children,
and all nations. Comenius envisaged educated people as those who sought knowledge
from all sources in order to become more like God in whose image they were made-
omniscient and universally compassionate.
Pansophism contained a strong argument for international education. He believed
that all knowledge comes from God and that human beings can come to know each other
and ultimately God, through the universal knowledge. He believed that the religious and
national hostilities that caused such violence to his people, the Brethren, and the other
people of Europe were caused by ignorance. A product either not knowing or of being
falsely indoctrinated, ignorance led to bigotry, discrimination, and intolerance the root causes of war and bloodshed.
Complete knowledge, such as that which Comenius
believed possible, would dispel ignorance, bring people closer to each other, cause them
to respect ultimately and bring them to know God.
Basic Pansophic Priciple of Comenius
1. An absolutely new vision of the whole, of the entire world is required.
2. A picture of the world should be viewed as unity, in its inherent organization and reality.
3. It will result in the Universalis Sapientia or universal knowledge that is interconnected by a unity of its
laws acting throughout all disciplines deductible from every one of them.
4. Universal Knowledge will make what is possible to clarify in future individual
and opposed truths, and simultaneously, unite all views within a common objective.
5. Pansophia will extend all over the world, opening boundless opportunities for cognition and perfection.
6. When their reality is understood as a unique living organism, all its components reveal their true meaning and reality itself
reveals its laws to people, they will come to universal harmony.
7. Man should apprehend all that and create harmony in him.
8. Man will acquire a universal key and guideline to further cognition and discoveries.
9. Pansophia is a true vision and understanding of the world, it should become accessible door for all people of the earth in th
eir native languages.
10. If man lives in truth and performs his part in the universal harmony, then all people would come to a concord, to peace.
Comenius Views of Education
For Comenius, the ultimate purpose of human life is to become united with God and to obtain eternal
bliss in life after death, with life here on Earth being the preparation for life after death. For this purpose,
everyone should know all things, become a person who can control things and himself, and become like the image of God.
He advocated necessity of three kinds of education; intellectual, moral, and
religious education. To teach all things to all men was the theme of Comenius theory
of education, which was called PANSAPHIA. Comenius considered that the talent to
realize the goals of education is naturally inherent in people, and it is the role of
education to bring out this natural gift, that is nature.
Comenius said that fundamentally, parents are responsible for their childrens
education, but should they become unable to do it, schools replace them. To him, the
image of the ideal person was that of a pansophist, a person who has learned all
knowledge concerning God, nature, and human beings.
Comenius believed in the creation of a new worldwide social order that would contain peace-making and
peace-keeping institutions. To create the cultural context for his new
social order, the leaders of the church and the state needed to transform schools into agencies
of human enlightenment that would open minds and hearts rather than close them through indoctrination. Comenius
argued that teachers should respect childrens human dignity rather than coerce them physically or psychologically.
Teachers should be kinder to the chidren instead of being harsh. He also argued that teachers should develop instructional
methods by which children could actively use their sense of learning. Schools that were transformed into places
of enlightened and humane learning would cultivate an ecumenical
vision of the peaceable kingdom where all could live in mutual respect.
Comenius saw children through Christs eyes, which are precious gifts from God to be cherished rather
than annoyances to be suppressed. Children will be the joint heirs
of Christ just as much as their Christian parents are. Someday they will rule the Kingdom
of God and judge the very devils. Therefore, children are to be treated as if they are more precious than
gold. They should be showered with love. Material should be adapted to their ability to learn.
Since a combination of words and pictures is more powerful than either alone, the two should be united in childrens
texts. Curricula should move from simple to more complex with repetition and review so that the learner will gain mastery.
Never should children be punished for failing but rather be helped and encouraged. The subjects taught should have practical
use. Where possible, demonstration and direct observation should be the norm.
According to Comenius, there should be four grades in an educational system which is
equivalent to pre-school, grade school, high school and college. He hopes that through education,
mankind might be changed for the better.
Principles of Teaching Introduced by Comenius
1. Older children should stay longer in school, while younger ones stay in school only for a short period of time.
2. All classes of the same level should have the same textbooks, teachers, and tests or examination.
3. Morning hours should be devoted for intellectual subjects, while the afternoon hours should be
spent on subjects that promote physical and aesthetic development.
4. All subjects should be thoroughly mastered.
5. Education should be in accordance with the childs natural interest.
6. The level of teaching should be suited to the childs understanding.
7. Effective learning is done through the use of vernacular