Summary and Keywords
Jan Amos Comenius (b. 1592) is widely recognized as a pivotal figure in the history of educational thought. Living during a period of great turmoil he promoted universal schooling as the means to engineer a perfectly harmonious world. His argument turned upon claims to scientific knowledge and a didactic method that could instill truth in all minds. As the ever expanding scholarship on Comenius demonstrates, many still find inspiration in this visionary project. But Comenius’ work must be read in the context of Early Modern thought. Convinced that life was situated in the divinely crafted cosmos pictured in the Book of Genesis, his overarching goal was to restore “the image of God in man” and realize the Golden Age depicted in prophecy. The school was to be a workshop for the reformation of mankind, a place to manufacture of right thinking and right acting individuals. I explore these epistemological and pedagogic arguments and demonstrate their role in his hugely successful Latin primer, Orbis pictus (1658). Comenius, I conclude, was a revolutionary thinker who married subtle observations about the process of learning with sophisticated instructional practices. However, given current views about human nature and the social good, these principles cannot be applied uncritically to contemporary educational problems.
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