Learning from Nature
“To teach all things
to all men
all points of view.”
These are the words that have given Jan Amos Comenius a reputation in the history of educational thought. Hailed as a modern thinker; Comenius is honored by many for his insights into the learning process and methods of teaching that are suitable to it. Yet his contributions can only be analyzed properly within the framework of the 17th century, which has been characterized as an “age of science.” Comenius was a man of two worlds. He was medieval in some ways, modern in others; his originality shines in several instances, yet he reflects prevailing opinions, ideals and common sense that can be found in numerous other writers. Comenius was foremost a schoolmaster; his practical efforts in school reform and curriculum development earned him his status and shaped his theorizing on education. The study of this man’s educational ideas is a worthy venture, because several centuries of intellectual ferment flow into his thought and pass on to several more centuries of educational innovation.
Comenius stood firmly within the tradition of Renaissance humanism and of the Protestant Reformation, although he, like many others, was disappointed in some of the fruits of these movements. The scientific and literary humanism of the Renaissance was a reaction against the dead orthodoxy of medieval scholasticism. It liberated man’s reasoning capacities from the straitjacket of Aristotelian physics and logic, which had been married to Christian doctrine and stifled all exploration of the natural world.
Thus, in education, the humanists gave birth to the classical liberal arts curriculum. Greek and Latin were the primary subjects, and they were read with a new enthusiasm, perceived ...