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played in his writings, in such a manner as to present his most valuable and permanent principles, labors, and efforts, unconfused with his more transitory and accidental ideas and endeavors. The first important work which Comenius wrote was his
I. DIDACTICA MAGNA. He was, by no means, one of those pedagogues who take up one or another single subject of instruction, or who place all good in this or that method of teaching. He was, in the very best sense of the word, universal; and, notwithstanding this universality, he always strove after the most thorough foundation. Of this his Didactica Magna, the earliest and profoundest of his pedagogical works, is a proof. He had planned it as early as 1628, in his thirty-sixth year, in the full power of his manhood, and while unbroken by the misfortunes through which he afterward passed. He had pedagogical experience, while his views were not narrowed by the errors which afterward came upon him. He was sailing before a prosperous breeze, and gave his thoughts free course, without asking whether they were practicable. In truth, how many of them were impracticable in his time, which have since been well realized !
“Man,” says Comenius in the Didactica, “ lives a threefold life ; vegetable, animal, and intellectual or spiritual. He has a threefold home; the mother's womb, earth, and heaven. By birth he has the second of these, and by death and resurrection, the third, which is eternal. As the child in his mother's womb is prepared for his earthly life, so is the soul, with the help of the body, prepared, in the earthly life, for eternity. Happy is he who brings into the world from his mother's womb, well formed limbs; a thousand times happier he, who at death takes a well trained soul from it.
Man is a reasoning creature, and the lord of all other creatures; the image of God; and, therefore, was his mind, in the beginning, directed toward knowledge, virtue, and piety. We can not declare ourselves incapable of these three by reason of the fall, without shameful ingratitude to the grace of God in Christ, through which we are born again.*
As made in the image of the all-knowing God, we strive after wisdom. The capacity of our minds is immeasurable.
The seeds of knowledge, virtue and religion, are not themselves, in the beginning, given to men, but they must be developed by prayer, study, and practice; by action does man first arrive at true existence.
* Interiores nostrae vires es lapsu primaero infirmalae sunt sed non extinctae. Did. 55.
All men need instruction, Instruction must begin early. In youth God has made man unfit for civil and other duties, that he may have an opportunity for learning.
All children, rich or poor, high or low, boys or girls, must be instructed in school; in every thing God's image must be sought to be restored, and each must be prepared for his future calling. Each must learn every thing; each man is a microcosm. Not that each should learn every science, but that all should be so instructed that they may understand the basis, relation and purpose, of all the most important things relating to what they are, and are to become; so much is necessary for all who are to be actors, and not mere lookers on, in this world.*
We have no schools which fulfill their purpose. In many places they are entirely wanting; in others only the children of the rich are cared for; the methods of instruction are repulsive, wearisome and obscure; and morals are entirely neglected. No instruction is given about real things; fifteen or twenty years are spent upon Latin, and yet nothing is accomplished in it." The best years of my own youth,” says Comenius, were wasted in useless school exercises. But how often since I have learned to know better, have I shed tears at the remembrance of lost hours; how often have I cried out in my grief, O mihi praeteritos referat si Jupiter annos! But grief is vain, and past days will not return. Only one thing remains, only one thing is possible; to leave to posterity what advice I can, by showing the way in which our teachers have led us into errors, and the method of remedying those errors. May I do this in the name and under the guidance of Him who alone can number all our faults, and make our crooked things straight."
Instruction will usually succeed, if the method follows the course of nature. Whatever is natural, goes forward of itself.
- Instruction should begin in early youth, when the mind is yet free; and should proceed by steps, in proportion to the development of the powers.
The schools are wrong, in first teaching languages, and then proceeding to other things. And boys are kept for several years in studies which relate to languages, and only then are they put to real studies, such as mathematics, physics, etc. And yet the thing is the substance, and the word the accident; the thing is the body, and the word the clothing. Things and words should be studied together, but things especially, as being the object both of the understanding and of language.
• Didact. 42-6.
The practice is wrong of making grammar the beginning of instruction in language, instead of beginning with an author, or a properly arranged word-book; for the author or the word-book contain the material of the language, and the form should be afterward added to it from the grammar.
- Examples should precede abstract rules; and in general, matter should precede form, everywhere. Too many things should not be studied at the same time, but one after another.
The scholar should be introduced into a sort of encyclopædia of what he is learning, which should be gradually developed further and further.
Each language, science, or art, should be first taught in its simplest rudiments, then more fully, with rules and examples; and afterward systematically, with the addition of the anomalies.
Instruction should be carefully given in successive classes, so that the lower class may have completely gone over the ground preparatory to the higher, and that the higher shall, on the other hand, confirm what was learned in the lower. Nature proceeds by continual progress, but yet so that she usually does not give up any thing preceding, at beginning something new, but rather continues what was begun before, increasing it and carrying it to completion. Each class should be finished in a fixed time.
Youth should not be molested at first with controversies; no one would ever be established in the truth, if his first instruction should consist in discussion.
It is not good for a boy to have many teachers, since they would hardly follow the same method, and thus they would confuse him. All studies should be taught in a natural, uniform method, and from books of a uniform character.
Even teachers of less ability will be enabled by such books to instruct well, because the book will make a beginning for them.
Friendly and loving parents and teachers, cheerful school rooms, play-grounds near the school houses, and systematic and natural instruction, must all contribute to the success of teaching, and to counteract the usual dislike to the school.
Most teachers sow plants instead of seeds of plants: instead of proceeding from the simplest principles, they introduce the scholar at once into a chaos of books and miscellaneous studies.
The grammar of a foreign tongue, for example the Latin, should be adapted to the mother tongue of each scholar; since different mother tongues stand in different relations with the Latin.
In learning a foreign tongue, the course of proceeding should be
from the understanding of it to writing it, and afterward at the right time, further, to speaking it, when improvising will be necessary.
Things near at hand should be learned first, and afterward those lying further and further off.
The first education should be of the perceptions, then of the memory, then of the understanding, and then of the judgment. For knowledge begins with mental perceptions, which are fixed in the memory by the apprehension; then the understanding, by inductions from single apprehensions, forms general truths, or ideas; and lastly, certain knowledge proceeds from the operation of the judgment upon things before understanding.
The scholar should not learn by rote what he does not understand.
He should learn nothing which is not useful for one or another mode of life ;* he is preparing himself not only for knowledge, but also for virtue and piety.
All studies must be as much as possible worked into one whole, and developed from one root. The relation of cause and effect must everywhere be shown.
We learn, not only in order to understand, but also to express and to use what we understand. As inuch as any one understands so much ought he to accustom himself to express, and on the other hand he should understand whatever he says. Speech and knowledge should proceed with equal steps.
If the teacher is obliged to instruct a great number of scholars, he should divide his class into decuriae, and should set over each a decurion, to assist him.
Reading and writing should be learned together.
Youth should be made to understand, not the appearances of the things which make impressions upon their minds, but the things themselves.
Instruction must begin with actual inspection, not with verbal description of things. From such inspection it is that certain knowledge comes. What is actually seen remains faster in the memory than description or enumeration, a hundred times as often repeated. For this reason, pictures, Biblical scenes for example, are strongly to be recommended.
The eye should first be directed to an object in its totality, and,
* Ea siquidem discenda sunt in terris, monet Hieronymus, quorum scientia perseveret in coelos, 88.
t Omnia doceantur per causas, 95. Scire est rem per causas tenere. 118
: Quae quis intelligere docetur, doceatur simul eloqui et operari, seu transferre ad usum, 96. This reminds us of Bacon.
afterward to its parts. This is true not only of the mental, but of the bodily vision.
All the parts, without exception, should be dealt with, and their various relations.
The distinctions of things should be properly brought out. Qui bene distinguit, bene docet.
Each study should be learned by practice; writing by writing, singing by singing, etc. The master must first perform the thing before the scholar, to be imitated by him, without tiresome theoretical explanation. For man is animal uiuentixov.
In practicing any thing, a beginning must be made with the first elements, and gradual progress must follow to the more difficult and intricate parts of it. First, for instance, from letters to syllables, words, etc.
Imitation must, in the beginning be strictly conformed to the model; and the pupil must, only by degrees, attain to freedom and independence. Thus, at first, he must copy very carefully the copy set by the writingmaster; and only after long practice does he attain to an individual hand writing.
Languages. The mother tongue should be learned first, then the language of some neighboring nation, and only then Latin, Greek, Hebrew, etc.; and always one at a time. Several should not be commenced at the same time, for this would confuse. When the scholar is well acquainted with several languages, he may begin to compare them by the lexicon and grammar.
Any language is learned better by practice, by hearing rapid reading, writing off, etc., than by rules. These are to come in aid to the practice and to give it certainty. The rules of language should be strictly grammatical, not subtile and philosophical.
At learning a new language, the scholar's attention should be directed to the differences between its grammar and the grammar of the language which he already knows; and should not be obliged to repeat every time things common to both.
Only the mother tongue and Latin should be learned with entire completeness.
Comenius gives earnest directions for training boys to right wisdom, moderation, manliness and uprightness, by practice, teaching, and the example of the old. The tares sown by Satan, and the perversions of nature, must be withstood by the discipline of warning and chastisement.* The children, he says, must be taught to seek God, to be obedient to him, and to love him above all things; and that
Verbis et verberibus.