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Languages. System of schools.
tongue, and about things. Then other languages can be acquired in about a year each; Latin (which is to be studied more thoroughly) in about two years. Every language must be learnt by use rather than by rules, i.e., it must be learnt by hearing, reading and re-readin transcribing, attempting imitations in writing and orally, and by using the language in conversation. Rules assist and confirm practice, but they must come after, not before it. The first exercises in a language should take for their subject something of which the sense is already known, so that the mind may be fixed on the words and their connections.* The Catechism and Bible History may be used for this purpose.
33. Considering the classical authors not suited to boys' understanding, and not fit for the education of Christians, Comenius proposed writing a set of Latin manuals for the different stages between childhood and manhood: these were to be called "Vestibulum," "Janua," "Palatium" or "Atrium," "Thesaurus." The "Vestibulum," "Janua," and "Atrium" were really carried out.
$ 34. In Comenius's scheme there were to be four kinds of schools for a perfect educational course: -1st, the mother's breast for infancy; 2nd, the public vernacular school for children, to which all should be sent from six years old till twelve; 3rd, the Latin school or Gymnasium; 4th, residence at a University and travelling, to complete the course. The public schools were to be for all classes alike, and for girls† as well as boys.
Comenius here follows Ratke, who, as I have mentioned above (p. 116), required beginners to study the translation before the original. + Professor Masson (Life of Milton, vol. iii, p. 205, note) gives us the following from chap. ix (cols. 42-44), of the Didactica Magna :—
Mother-tongue School. Girls.
35. Most boys and girls in every community would stop at the vernacular school; and as this school is a very distinctive feature in Comenius's plan, it may be worth while to give his programme of studies. In this school the children should learn-1st, to read and write the mother-tongue well, both with writing and printing letters; 2nd, to compose grammatically; 3rd, to cipher; 4th, to measure and weigh; 5th, to sing, at first popular airs, then from music; 6th, to say by heart, sacred psalms and hymns; 7th, Catechism, Bible History, and texts; 8th, moral rules, with examples; 9th, economics and politics, as far as they could be understood; 10th, general history of the world; 11th,
"Nor, to say something particularly on this subject, can any sufficient reason be given why the weaker sex [sequior sexus, literally the later or following sex, is his phrase, borrowed from Apuleius, and, though the phrase is usually translated the inferior sex, it seems to have been chosen by Comenius to avoid that implication] should be wholly shut out from liberal studies whether in the native tongue or in Latin. For equally are they God's image; equally are they partakers of grace, and of the Kingdom to come; equally are they furnished with minds agile and capable of wisdom, yea, often beyond our sex; equally to them is there a possibility of attaining high distinction, inasmuch as they have often been employed by God Himself for the government of peoples, the bestowing of wholesome counsels on Kings and Princes, the science of medicine and other things useful to the human race, nay even the prophetical office, and the rattling reprimand of Priests and Bishops [etiam ad propheticum munus, et increpandos Sacerdotes Episcoposque, are the words; and as the treatise was prepared for the press in 1638 one detects a reference, by the Moravian Brother in Poland to the recent fame of Jenny Geddes, of Scotland]. Why then should we admit them to the alphabet, but afterwards debar them from books? Do we fear their rashness? The more we occupy their thoughts, the less room will there be in them for rashness, which springs generally from vacuity of mind."
School teaching. Mother's teaching.
figure of the earth and motion of stars, &c., physics and geography, especially of native land; 12th, general knowledge of arts and handicrafts.
§ 36. Each school was to be divided into six classes, corresponding to the six years the pupil should spend in it. The hours of work were to be, in school, two hours in the morning and two in the afternoon, with nearly the same amount of private study. In the morning the mind and memory were to be exercised, in the afternoon the hands and voice. Each class was to have its proper lesson-book written expressly for it, so as to contain everything that class had to learn. When a lesson was to be got by heart from the book, the teacher was first to read it to the class, explain it, and re-read it; the boys then to read it aloud by turns till one of them offered to repeat it without book; the others were to do the same as soon as they were able, till all had repeated it. This lesson was then to be worked over again as a writing lesson, &c. In the higher forms of the vernacular school a modern language was to be taught and duly practised.
§ 37. Here we see a regular school course projected which differed essentially from the only complete school course still earlier, that of the Jesuits. In education Comenius was immeasurably in advance of Loyola and Aquaviva. Like the great thinkers, Pestalozzi and Froebel, who most resemble him, he thought of the development of the child from its birth; and in a singularly wise little book, called Schola materni gremii, or "School of the Mother's Breast," he has given advice for bringing up children to the age of six.*
* Translated by Daniel Benham as The School of Infancy. London,
Comenius and the Kindergarten.
§ 38. Very interesting are the hints here given, in which we get the first approaches to Kindergarten training. Comenius saw that, much as their elders might do to develop children's powers of thought and expression, "yet children of the same age and the same manners and habits are of greater service still. When they talk or play together, they sharpen each other more effectually; for the one does not surpass the other in depth of invention, and there is among them no assumption of superiority of the one over the other, only love, candour, free questionings and answers" (School of Infancy, vi, 12, p. 38).* The constant activity of children must be provided for. "It is better to play than to be idle, for during play the mind is intent on some object which often sharpens the abilities. In this way children may be early exercised to an active life without any difficulty, since Nature herself stirs them up to be doing something" (Ib. ix, 15, p. 55). "In the second, third, fourth years, &c., let their spirits be stirred up by means of agreeable play with them or their playing among themselves. Nay, if some little occupation can be conveniently provided for the child's eyes, ears, or other senses, these will contribute to its vigour of mind and body” (Ib. vi, 21, p. 31).
§ 39. We have the usual cautions against forcing.
* Here Comenius seems to be thinking of the intercourse of children when no older companion is present; Froebel made more of the very different intercourse when their thoughts and actions are led by some one who has studied how to lead them. Children constantly want help from their elders even in amusing themselves. On the other hand, it is only the very wisest of mortals who can give help enough and no more. Self-dependence may sometimes be cultivated by "a little wholesome aeglect."
Starting points of the sciences.
"Early fruit is useful for the day, but will not keep; whereas late fruit may be kept all the year. As some natural capacities would fly, as it were, before the sixth, the fifth, or even the fourth year, yet it will be beneficial rather to restrain than permit this; but very much worse to enforce it." "It is safer that the brain be rightly consolidated before it begin to sustain labours: in a little child the whole bregma is scarcely closed and the brain consolidated within the fifth or sixth year. It is sufficient, therefore, for this age to comprehend spontaneously, imperceptibly and as it were in play, so much as is employed in the domestic circle" (Ib. chap. xi).
§ 40. One disastrous tendency has always shown itself in the schoolroom-the tendency to sever all connection between studies in the schoolroom and life outside. The young pack away their knowledge as it were in water-tight compartments, where it may lie conveniently till the scholastic voyage is over and it can be again unshipped.* Against this tendency many great teachers have striven, and none more vigorously than Comenius. Like Pestalozzi he sought to resolve everything into its simplest elements, and he finds the commencements before the school age. In the School of Infancy he says (speaking of rhetoric), "My aim is to shew, although this is not generally attended to, that the roots of all sciences and arts in every instance
* Comical and at the same time melancholy results follow. In an elementary school, where the children "took up" geography for the Inspector, I once put some questions about St. Paul at Rome. I asked in what country Rome was, but nobody seemed to have heard of such a place. "It's geography!" said I, and some twenty hands went up directly their owners now answered quite readily, "In Italy."