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"Everything Through the Senses."
§ 46. Several things are involved in this so-called "realism." First, Comenius would fix the mind of learners on material objects. Secondly, he would have them acquire their notions of these for themselves through the senses. From these two principles he drew the corollary that the vast accumulation of traditional learning and literature must be thrown overboard.
§ 47. The demand for the study of things has been best formulated by one of the greatest masters of words, by Milton. "Because our understanding cannot in the body found itself but on sensible things, nor arrive so clearly to the knowledge of God and things invisible, as by orderly conning over the visible and inferior creature, the same method is necessarily to be followed in all discreet teaching." (To Hartlib.) Its material surroundings then are to be the subjects on which the mind of the child must be fixed. This being settled, Comenius demands that the child's knowledge shall not be verbal but real realism, knowledge derived at first hand through the senses.*
§ 48. On this subject Comenius may speak for himself: "The ground of this business is, that sensual objects [we now say sensible: why not sensuous?] be rightly presented to the senses, for fear they may not be received. I say, and say it again aloud, that this last is the foundation of all the rest: because we can neither act nor speak wisely, unless
"Adhuc sub judice lis est." I find the editor of an American educational paper brandishing in the face of an opponent as a quotation from Professor N. A. Calkins' "Ear and Voice Training": "The senses are the only powers by which children can gain the elements of knowledge; and until these have been trained to act, no definite knowledge can be acquired." But Calkins says, "act, under direction of the mind."
Error of Neglecting the Senses.
we first rightly understand all the things which are to be done and whereof we have to speak. Now there is nothing in the understanding which was not before in the sense, And therefore to exercise the senses well about the right perceiving the differences of things will be to lay the grounds for all wisdom and all wise discourse and all discreet actions in one's course of life. Which, because it is commonly neglected in Schools, and the things that are to be learned are offered to scholars without their being understood or being rightly presented to the senses, it cometh to pass that the work of teaching and learning goeth heavily onward and affordeth little benefit." (Preface to Orbis Pictus, Hoole's trans. A.D. 1658.)
§ 49. Without going into any metaphysical discussion, we must all agree that a vast amount of impressions come to children through the senses, and that it is by the exercise of the senses that they learn most readily. As Comenius says: "The senses (being the main guides of childhood, because therein the mind doth not as yet raise up it self to an abstracted contemplation of things) evermore seek their own objects; and if these be away, they grow dull, and wry themselves hither and thither out of a weariness of themselves: but when their objects are present, they grow merry, wax lively, and willingly suffer themselves to be fastened upon them till the thing be sufficiently discerned." (P. to Orbis.) This truth lay at the root of most of the methods of Pestalozzi; and though it has had little effect on teaching in England (where for the word anschaulich there is no equivalent), everything that goes on in a German Folkschool has reference to it.
§ 50. For children then Comenius gave good counsel when he would have their senses exercised on the world
Insufficiency of the Senses.
about them. But after all, whatever may be thought of the proposition that all knowledge comes through the senses, we must not ignore what is bequeathed to us, both in science and in literature. Comenius says: 66 And now I beseech you let this be our business that the schools may cease to persuade and begin to demonstrate; cease to dispute and begin to look; cease lastly to believe and begin to know. For that Aristotellical maxim 'Discentem oportet credere, A learner must believe,' is as tyrannical as it is dangerous; so also is that same Pythagorean 'Ipse dixit, The Master has said it.' Let no man be compelled to swear to his Master's words, but let the things themselves constrain the intellect." (P. to Nat. Phil. R.) But the things themselves will not take us far. Even in Natural Science we need teachers, for Science is not reached through the senses but through the intellectual grasp of knowledge which has been accumulating for centuries. If the education of times past has neglected the senses, we must not demand that the education of the future should care for the senses only. There is as yet little danger of our thinking too much of physical education; but we sometimes hear reformers talking as if the true ideal were sketched in "Locksley Hall :”
“Iron-jointed, supple-sinew'd, they shall dive, and they shall run, Catch the wild goat by the hair, and hurl their lances in the sun, Whistle back the parrot's call, and leap the rainbows of the brooks; Not with blinded eyesight poring over miserable books."
There seems, however, still some reason for counting "the gray barbarian lower than the Christian child." And the reason is that we are "the heirs of all the ages." Our education must enable every child to enter in some measure on his inheritance; and not a few of our most precious heir
C. undervalued the Past.
looms will be found not only in scientific discoveries but also in those great works of literature which the votaries of science are apt to despise as "miserable books." This truth was not duly appreciated by Comenius. As Professor Laurie well says, "he accepted only in a half-hearted way the products of the genius of past ages." (Laurie's C., p. 22.) In his day there was a violent reaction from the Renascence passion for literature, and Comenius would entirely banish from education the only literatures which were then important, the "heathen" literatures of Greece and Rome. "Our most learned men," says he, "even among the theologians take from Christ only the mask: the blood and life they draw from Aristotle and a crowd of other heathens." (See Paulsen's Gesch., pp. 312, ff.) So for Cicero and Virgil he would substitute, and his contemporaries at first seemed willing to accept, the Janua Linguarum. But though there may be much more “real” knowledge in the Janua, the classics have survived it.*
* "What do you learn from 'Paradise Lost'? Nothing at all. What do you learn from a cookery book? Something new, something that you did not know before, in every paragraph. But would you therefore put the wretched cookery book on a higher level of estimation than the divine poem? What you owe to Milton is not any knowledge, of which a million separate items are but a million of advancing steps on the same earthly level; what you owe is power. that is, exercise and expansion to your own latent capacity of sympathy with the infinite, where every pulse and each separate influx is a step upward-a step ascending as upon a Jacob's ladder from earth to nysterious altitudes above the earth. All the steps of knowledge from first to last carry you further on the same plane, but could never raise you one foot above your ancient level of earth; whereas the very first step in power is a flight, is an ascending into another element where earth is forgotten." I have met with this as a quotation from De Quincey.
Literature and Science.
In these days there is a passion for the study of things which in its intensity resembles the Renascence passion for literature. There is a craving for knowledge, and we know only the truths we can verify; so this craving must be satisfied, not by words, but things. And yet that domain which the physicists contemptuously describe as the study of words must not be lost sight of, indeed cannot be, either by young or old. As Matthew Arnold has said, "those who are for giving to natural knowledge the chief place in the education of the majority of mankind leave one im-` portant thing out of their account-the constitution of human nature."
"We live by Admiration, Hope, and Love,
So says Wordsworth, and if this assertion cannot be verified, no more can it be disproved; that the words have become almost proverbial shows that it commends itself to the general consciousness. Whatever knowledge we may acquire, it will have little effect on our lives unless we can "relate it" (again to use Matthew Arnold's words), “to ou sense of conduct and our sense of beauty." (Discourses in America. "Literature and Science.") So long as we retain our sense for these, "the humanities" are safe. Like Milton we may have no inclination to study " modern Januas," but we shall not cease to value many of the works which the Janua of Comenius was supposed to have supplanted.*
When I visited (some years ago) the "École Modèle" at Brussels I was told that books were used for nothing except for learning to read. Comenius was saved from this consequence of his realism by his fervent Christianity. He valued the study of the Bible as highly as the Re