link: Comenius 



theme: Comenius combined Christianity with humanism to produce an educational theory which was realistic for develpment of the whole person for the whole of life.

"The logical relationship whereby things are united with one another are the nuts and bolts which hold together the different elements of the system and provide it with stability. When schools mold the man let them mold him in the totality of his being in such a way that he will have mastery over the functions which it will be incumbent upon him to perform in this life and that he will be ready for eternal life... Let nothing be included unless it has genuine usefulness for this and the future life." (Comenius. The Great Didactic, Magna Didactica 1657)

Human nature according to beliefs of sixteenth century Christianity Throughout the Middle Ages, educational theory was formulated on the basis of the principles and beliefs of Christianity. The Christian worldview was based on a dichotomous perception of the human personality or 'human nature'. Human nature was viewed in terms of the 'temporal life' of the material world and the 'spiritual life' of the spiritual  world. The temporal life was described as 'profane' because it was believed to be the source of sin or 'evil'. The profanity of the temporal life was described in terms of mindless, amoral and non-religious matters.  The spiritual life was described as ineffable or 'divine' because it was believed to be the source of human mind and consciousness. The divinity of the spiritual life was valued as the domain of thought, consciousness, morality and religion. The principle of the inner life and seat of human spiritual life was known as the 'source of true life', 'direct emanation of the divine' or the 'soul'. The most common rite was an internal meditation and self-reflection known as 'prayer'.

 It was in the context of this belief system that modern educational theory was first formulated.

 Educational theory in the context of Christian belief In seventeenth century Europe the aims of education placed emphasis on the development of the so-called 'spiritual' or 'religious' life. Children were educated for the so-called 'morality' of the spiritual life and not for the so-called 'profanity' of the temporal life. The source of religion and morality was believed to be the domain of the mind and children were not educated for preparation for a future in the material world or for any form of civil life. They were educated for knowledge of the classics.

Comenius is considered to be the first holistic educator  The first educational theorist to protest against classical education was Raticus or Ratke. Ratke's successor the illustrious priest Amos Comensky was known by the Latinised form of his name Comenius. It was Comenius who brought about changes in the educational system. Comenius reorganized the state school system in Sweden in 1638 and established a model school in Hungary in 1650. Comenius formulated a religious basis for the idea of a 'new education'.

"When schools mold the man let them mold him in the totality of his being in such a way that he will have mastery over the functions which it will be incumbent upon him to perform in this life and that he will be ready for eternal life."

Comenius' ideas were consistent with the widespread feeling for a need to break away from the educational theories based on the Christianity of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance i.e. 'classical education'.

New education in the world of nature or 'natural science' Comenius formulated a religious basis for the idea of a new education. He said knowledge was the means by which man can find the primitive purity which he lost with original sin. ...his ideas formed the basis of a new educational theory based on the need for children to be educated for the world of things... the material world of nature... 'reality'. His theory was described in The Great Didactic (Magna Didactica) to show "the art of readily and solidly teaching all men all things." In the Great Didactic Comenius introduced the value of knowledge of the 'real world' of natural sciences. He claimed that people needed to learn not only from books but from their own observations of actual things in nature - the sky, the land, the trees etc. His ideas formed the basis of a new 'science of education'. He became known as the 'pioneer of modern educational science'..

The new 'science of education' ...his ideas formed the basis of a new educational practice which was to educate children in the world of things. He tried to establish a 'science of education' and he became known as the 'pioneer of modern educational science'.

Comenius used the metaphor of the tree of life and compared the growth of a child to the growth of a tree.

"The growth of a tree is dependent on its hidden inner aspect. The growth and success of a person's life depends on his inner development, the state of consciousness. If life is the tree, the various aspects of life - family, occupation, health, friendship, education - are the branches. The quality of a person's outer life - actions, achievements, relations with the world - depends on the inner life - the mind - in the same way as the branches of a tree depend on the roots. For healthy branches, nourishment (water, minerals) is provided at the root... all the operations of nature, development is from within. A tree, that is nourished by the rain of heaven and the moisture of the earth, assimilates its nutriment, not through its outer bark, but through the pores of its innmost parts. On this account the gardener waters, not the branches, but the roots." (J.A. Comenius The Great Didactic cited in Classics in Education Wade Baskin ed., New York: Philosophical Library, l966)

 Like the growth of the tree, the growth of the child depends on the right conditions  As the outer qualities of the tree... growth of a tree depends on the quality of internal conditions... inner condition so in the same way, the outer qualities of a person's life - actions, achievements, relations with the world - growth and success depends on their inner consciousness state which in turn depends on the level of inner development which they have reached... the quality of the person's inner life or 'mind'. If life is represented by the tree, then the various aspects of life - family, occupation, health, friendship, education - can be represented by branches. As the health of the branches depends on the nourishment provided at the root roots (minerals water) so healthy growth of a child depends on proper nourishment (spiritual love) provided at the inner core or 'root' of human nature.

Comenius understood the role of the 'organic' and 'affective' factors in the development of intellectual faculties. He applied his principles to the teaching of the seven-year old son of the duke de Parme.

Implies the concept of learning by discovery, and from experience. Discussion of the learning process involves the moral and emotional aspects of the relationship between student and teacher. "Without interest, learning seldom takes place, or if it does, it cannot rise above the level of rote memory."

Comenius' principles in his own words

First, "If the educatior of the young give special attention to the roots of knowledge, the understanding, these will soon impart their vitality to the stem, that is to the memory and finally blossoms and fruits, that is to say, a facile use of language and practical capacity will be produced." (learning for understanding)

Second, "Nature in its formative processes, begins with the universal and ends with the particular. From this it follows that it is a mistake to teach the several branches of science in detail before a general outline of the whole realm of knowledge has been placed before the student, and that no one should be instructed in such a way as to become proficient in any one branch of knowedge without thoroughly understanding its relation to all the rest." ('systems approach')

 "The logical relationship whereby things are united with one another are the nuts and bolts which hold together the different elements of the system and provide it with stability." ("Scholae dum hominem formant, totaliter forment ut parem negotiis hujus vitae ipsique aeternitati aptum reddant") (Magna Didactica)

Third, "Nature begins by a careful selection of materials. It follows from this that it is best to devote the mind to the pursuit of wisdom while it is still fresh." (pursuit of wisdom)

 Fourth, "Nature prepares its material so that it actually strives to attain the form" Any living thing "displays a keen desire to fulfill all its natural functions, though throughout the whole process of development it advances step by step." (developmental stages)

 Fifth, "Nature develops everything from beginnings which, though insignificant in appearance, possess great potential strength... Instruction rests on a very small number of principles from which an unlimited number of results can be deduced."

Sixth, "Nature does not hurry but advances slowly." It is foolish to try to teach more than the pupils can assimilate.

Seventh, "Nature compels nothing to advance that is not driven forward by its own mature strength.""Nothing should be taught to the young unless it is not only permitted but actually demanded by their age and mental strength. Nothing should be learned by heart that has not been thoroughly grasped by the understanding . (respect for growth stages )

Eighth, Nature assists its operations in every possible manner. It is cruelty on the part of a teacher if he set his pupils work to do without first explaining it to them thoroughly, or showing them how it should be done, and if he does not assist them in their first attempts." (facilitative teaching)

 Ninth, "Nothing is produced by nature of which the practical application is not soon evident" "Those things only should be taught whose practical application can be easily demonstrated" (value of pragmatism)

"Let nothing be included unless it has genuine usefulness for this and the future life." ("Nihil tractetur nisi quod solidissimum habeat usum ad dhanc et futuram vitam.)

Tenth, "Nature produces nothing that is useless..."Schools must therefore be organised in such a way that the scholars learn nothing but what is of value."

Comenius believed in the principle that 'science' constitutes the unifying theme in the study of the world.("Rationes sunt istsi clavi, istae fibulae...quae rem faciunt firmiter haerere."(Magna Didactica)

Implications for education  The inner core of human nature is the source of moral development... development of moral consciousness or 'conscience'. The conscience is the 'human spirit' or 'soul'. Development of conscience is the source of 'morality'.

Comenius' principles of education are still valid today - learning for understanding, systems approach to learning, pursuit of wisdom, developmental stages, facilitative teaching, value of pragmatism, respect for growth stages. 'holistic education'

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Wade Baskin (ed) Classics in Education New York: Philosophical Library, l966


notes: history of science

The 'protosciences' of the ancients were based on the belief that complex natural phenomena could be explained by theological revelation and an understanding of the 'soul.' During the medieval period in Europe and until the 18th century, societies of Europe and North America were dominated by the worldview based on the beliefs of the Christian church. The concepts of 'oneness' and 'wholeness' were considered to be metaphysical notions in the realm of theology. With the scientific revolution, the Christian worldview was replaced by a scientific worldview. This view was based on the belief that the universe was set in motion by a Creator and obeyed certain universal laws of motion. According to Newtonian mechanics, the universe was a giant mechanism made up of uniformly behaving bodies and forces. The laws of motion were determined by simple relationships between them. Man was perceived as separate from nature and in a position to control it. 'Science' was recognized as a human activity involving a set of basic metaphysical assumptions. First, objectivism - the observer and the observed are separate; second, reductionism - all complex phenomena can be explained in terms of simple phenomena; third, positivism - all scientific knowledge can be derived from physically measurable data; and fourth, determinism - it is possible to predict phenomena on the basis of scientific laws. Within the framework of these assumptions, scientists made models of the physical world. Using a 'scientific method,' they postulated hypotheses and designed experiments to test their models. Analysing the data, they arrived at conclusions which formed the basis of their description of the physical world. In this process of so-called 'logical empiricism,' the observer of reality experienced the world objectively. Based on the well established assumptions of objectivism, reductionism, positivism and determinism, the methods of modern science have become established as an orthodox reductionist science. Many scientists make the mistake of confusing the definition of modern science with the assumptions upon which it is based. They believe that any knowledge system which does not account for these assumptions must not be in the realm of 'science.' According to the worldview of reductionist science, scientific reality is perceived objectively without the participation of the observer. There is no recognition for the scientific reality of the human inner life. Scientific methodology is based on the assumption that the process of observation involves the detachment of the observer. Of great significance in the Western tradition, this quality of detachment from the objective world is the origin of the concept of individuality and individual freedom. The price has been a sense of alienation from the outer world - a loss of the sense of 'oneness' with the universe, a loss of the wholistic perspective. In the extreme form of detachment, the individual treats other human beings as objects. Educational methodology which is formulated withinn the context of this worldview does not recognize the scientific reality of the human inner life. Pedagogical principles have been formulated with a view to the learner's detachment in the learning process. In the past, the worldview of reductionist science has been shaping the goals of education. The scientific process of logical empiricism has shaped the perception of the learning process in education. With a bias towards completely 'objective' knowledge, scientific methodology has directly influenced the educational methodology. The aims of education have been formulalted in terms of the acquisition and meassurement of 'objective' knowledge. The assumption is made that cognitive knowledge can only be measured with objective testing methods. The objectives of coursework and classwork have been described in terms of test-taking skills and test performance. The value of knowledge has been measured in terms of its objectives and its usefulness. In the context of this scientific paradigm and worldview, the objective scientific reality of 'being human'is defined in terms of objective scientific reality. It is not defined in terms of the intrinsic nature and value of what it is to be human. Cognitive knowledge is not considered in terms of its intrinsic value to the development of the human potential. Nor is it considered in terms of the enrichment of the human life or the inner life. Educational policy formulated in the context of the modern scientific worldview disregards knowledge systems which are not considered to be in the realm of 'science'. There are indications that the basic assumptions of the reductionist worldview are being reexamined and a fundamental change is taking place. In the English speaking part of the industrialized world and in Northern Europe there is a shift in the scientific paradigm from reductionist science to wholistic science. This change consists of new trends away from linear perspectives and towards whole-system perspectives; away from cause-effect relationships and towards interrelationships; away from reductionism and towards wholism. At the turn of the century, the mechanistic view of the physical world was challenged by Einstein's theory of relativity and quantum theory. Since then, new laws of integrated wholes have been postulatedthe laws of natural systems of organized complexity such as the universe, the galaxy, the solar system, the terrestrial biosphere, man's societies, man's environment, and man himself. A scientific study of reality which is wholistic emphasizes the 'whole-system perspective.' This approach requires an understanding of the interrelationships between the parts of the whole system. In a wide variety of systems - biological, social, cosmological and others - the natural tendency for the evolution of ever larger and more complex wholes cannot be fully comprehended by analysing the constituent parts. Whether one considers a cell, a human being, a nation, or a world of nations, the whole is somehow greater than the sum of its parts. Within the framework of the wholistic paradigm, the observer focuses on the order, harmony and synchrony inherent in complex systems. Known as the 'systems approach,' the wholistic perspective views the interrelationships and unifying patterns within the complexities of natural systems. Of wide interest in recent decades is the work of Ludwig von Bertalanffy. He describes the scientific exploration of wholism and the application of the systems approach to higher levels of organization. He outlines changes in science which have led to more 'wholistic' perspectives in general and describes the role of 'general system' approaches in particular. The 'general system theory' is the scientific exploration of the concepts of 'whole' and 'wholeness'. The 'systems' approach is the 'wholistic' approach. A significant result of the introduction of a 'systems' or 'wholistic' approach to scientific methodology is the reorientation of thinking. The result is a new scientific paradigm known as 'system philosophy' which is based on the view of the world as a great organization or'organism.' According to this new worldview, the sciences are conceptual systems which correspond with reality. A system is perceived in terms of its own properties as a whole, over and above the properties of its parts. Perceived in terms of wholes or 'systems,' all natural phenomena are treated as 'natural systems.' The properties of natural systems are not reducible to the properties of the interdependent parts. The functioning of the whole is understood in terms of the constituent sets of integrated relations and interacting parts. The properties of the whole system are a result of the interdependence of its constituent parts. The general property of the whole system is something more than the sum of the properties of the individual parts. A proper understanding of the whole system is only possible with the recognition of its irreducible properties. Thus the properties of the atom, a natural system, are not reducible to the properties of the different parts of the atom. The functioning of the brain as a whole has irreducible properties. The same applies for all the other natural systems on different levels of organization, such as the molecule, the cell, the tissue, the organ, the organism and so on. Even the human personality as a whole can only be understood in terms of the integrated functioning of an individual's feelings, instincts, volitions, reasoning capacities etc. Natural systems are subjected to the forces of a changing environment. As a whole and as a large system, the physical world approaches a state of ultimate disorganization. The quantity called 'entropy,' and its negative form 'negentropy,' is a measure of the energy available to the system. In any system, according to the Second Law of Thermodynamics, entropy increases and negentropy decreases with time. A natural system which requires energy for the maintenance of a dynamic steady state is an 'open system in a steady-state' requiring energy for its maintenance in a changing environment. Characteristic of open natural systems is the maintenance of steady state equilibrium as opposed to inert equilibrium. Living organisms are open natural systems which take in energies, metabolize and rearrange substances, and liberate energies in new forms which are used for self-maintenance and growth. The regulative mechanism of body temperature in warm-blooded organisms, known as 'homeostasis', is a clear example of an 'open natural system.' Other examples are the cells of an organism, the brain as an organ, man as a social organism and the planet Earth as a gigantic organism. Within the framework of the wholistic worldview and the systems perspective, the planet Earth is a natural open system, profoundly affected by human activities. James Lovelock, physician and geologist, describes the planet Earth as a 'living planet.' He proposes a systems approach to the scientific study of the Earth. Actively maintained and regulated by life on its surface, the living Earth is named 'Gaia' - after the Greek name for the earth goddess. This idea originated in the search for life on Mars. Lovelock was invited by NASA to be an experimenter on the first lunar instrument mission. At the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, he first worked on the lunar probe and then on the design of sensitive instruments for analyzing the surfaces and atmospheres of planets. With a background in biology and medicine, he grew curious about the experiments to detect life on other planets. Together with a philosopher employed by NASA to assess the experiments, Lovelock decided that the most certain way to detect life on a planet was to analyze its atmosphere. He reasoned that the existence of living organisms would depend on the atmosphere for the conveyance of raw materials, products and by-products of their metabolism. The result would be an atmosphere of changing chemical composition, an atmosphere in disequilibrium - recognizably different from the atmosphere of a lifeless planet. In 1975 the two Viking spacecraft sent to Mars on a life-detecting mission confirmed the absence of life on that planet. This important finding led to new perspectives and models of Earth as a planet with life - as a 'living planet.' Called the 'Gaia hypothesis,' the new model of the Earth views the planet as a self-organizing and self-regulating open natural system. Gaia is a planetary being described in terms of the co-evolution of living species and their environments. With one modifying assumption, the Gaia hypothesis is in accordance with Darwin's theory of evolution through natural selection. Whereas Darwin assumed the evolution of species to be independent of the evolution of the environment, Lovelock makes a case for the coupled co-evolution of species and their environments. Through the mechanism of natural selection, species and environments evolve together as open natural systems. The wholistic 'Gaia hypothesis' forms the basis of a unified science of the Earth. Combining geology and the earth sciences with physiology and the life sciences, the systems science of the Earth is 'geophysiology.' With a wholistic perpective of the planet Earth, the new science constitutes a theoretical basis for establishing a 'planetary medicine.' Instead of being in control of the planet and its resources, the human species through human activities brings about important changes and thus plays an important role in the functioning of the whole living planet. According to Gaia theory "we are just another species, neither the owners nor the stewards of this planet. Our future depends much more upon a right relationship with Gaia than with the never-ending drama of human interest." (James Lovelock, The Ages of Gaia: A Biography of Our Living Earth. (London, New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1988), 14) It is being discovered that not only is the reductionist scientific paradigm insufficient for the study of the physical world; it is insufficient for the study of human affairs as well. This shift in the dominant scientific paradigm and world view has profound implications for education and for science education in particular. The implications for education are far reaching. The shift from the reductionist worldview to the wholistic worldview in teaching methodology is noticeable in three characteristic trends: first, the trend away from fragmentation, competition and separateness and towards the emphasis on oneness and wholeness; second, the trend away from faith in external authority, such as religion, science and 'experts' and towards the inner authority of the conscience; third, the trend away from the need to control and towards the need to trust the human spirit. The goals of education are being shaped by the new wholistic science which forms the basis for a wholistic education. The new scientific methodology of wholistic science is based on the assumption that the observer participates in the process of observation. Reflecting the same basic assumption, a new educational methodology recognizes and validates the participation of the learner in the learning process. The new wholistic science includes more 'participatory methodology' based on the subjective experiences of the observer in experimental situations. Based on the assumption of oneness and wholeness, it validates the inner subjective experience as well as objective physical sense data. It is not possible to have a truly meaningful education for the 'humanization' of society without the scientific recognition of the intrinsic nature and value of what it is to be human. The worldview of wholistic science does recognize the intrinsic nature and value of the human inner life. It is therefore possible to have a truly meaningful wholistic education if it is based on the wholistic paradigm and the scientific recognition of the human inner life. A wholistic education is possible within the context of the worldview of a wholistic science. With the scientific recognition of the inner life, the wholistic worldview permits a global view of the human being as a 'totality of body, soul and spirit.' Scientific discoveries of the interrelations of body, soul and spirit are reflected in a new educational paradigm. The new pedagogical methodology recognizes that the child's learning experiences and learning difficulties are global in nature. The global view of the child and the learning process "can provide a secure theoretical and practical foundation for a holistic education that directs itself to educate the whole person for the whole of life." (Gerald Karnow, "Educat continue the title