On 28 March 2020, we commemorated the 428th anniversary of the birth of that great 17th-century thinker after whom our university is named. An even more significant anniversary awaits us in autumn when we will commemorate the 350th anniversary of his death. Despite the centuries that have passed, Comenius’s insights are still relevant and inspiring. And this is not just because the world is going through a difficult and sad time and we are weighing up what is truly important in life (unum necessarium).

28. 03. 2020 11.17 hod.
By: From: CU Public Relations Office

“Wisdom is how a person can be useful to others, not just oneself. Every action should not only serve our own benefit but also that of others.”

(J. A. Comenius: Schola pansophica)

Without thinking too deeply, the first association people make with John Amos Comenius is that he was the teacher of nations or the teacher of teachers (praeceptor mundi). It is not by coincidence that International Teacher's Day is celebrated on his birthday. Although the extent of his literary work can seem vast – he is credited with the authorship of up to 250 writings of various lengths – discovering the depth and timelessness of his thoughts is certainly worth the effort. This is true not only for educators, theologians, and philosophers, but also for the younger generation, for whom it is of the utmost importance that it finds values which allow for the building of a better society. And this is why Comenius's legacy is still alive after 400 years.

Through great intellectual effort, while also being sorely tested by life’s challenges, Comenius was a man who exhibited persistent pedagogical optimism and who gain worldwide recognition. In his time, he was one of the great scholars. He looked for ways towards a better life and education, and he sought the purpose of learning. His philosophical and theological works are original and deal with difficult issues; they look at relationships between people and between nations and call for the overall harmony of humanity. He placed a strong emphasis on human freedom, tolerance, humanity, and justice for all: these are values that need to be strongly shown today.

School as the manufactory of humanity

In a time that demands critical thinking, even though many ignore or consciously misrepresent the truth, Comenius's works are a perfect mirror where he reveals the truth about human values, a free and just world for all, and the reformations needed in order to achieve a perfect human society. Man today is educated: he knows a lot, can do a lot, and wants a lot, but he also has devastating and self-destructive intentions. School is supposed to be a manufactory (workshop) of humanity that ennobles the mind, speech, and actions of man. Comenius considered a people to be happy when there were enough good schools, good books, and good teachers. It was in school that he saw the main means of improving society and achieving the overall harmony of mankind. Education as a lifelong process should build in people the spirit of democracy and humanism.

The ideal of an almighty education

Through his efforts to reform education, he become the founder of the modern school system recognized worldwide. He defined the requirements for a general and systematic education for us all. His 192 didactic principles are dominated by the principle of clarity, which he wanted to facilitate the teaching of Latin and other subjects.

He believed in the omnipotence of education and based all his work on this ideal. He wrote textbooks, methodological manuals, and writings on didactics and educational theory. He reformed education in several European countries, and he gathered materials for language dictionaries and encyclopaedias so as to compile all the available knowledge and bring mankind to a state of pansophism (i.e., "all-knowing").

Why is Slovakia’s first university named after a Czech educator?

At the time of its establishment in June 1919, this university was only the third to be operating in the Czechoslovak Republic after Charles University in Prague and Masaryk University in Brno. When, according to this model, the name of a personality was also sought for this university, MP František Drtina, who was also a university professor, proposed it be named after Comenius. After the establishment of the Czechoslovak Republic, Comenius had become part of the official interpretation of Czechoslovak history and was one of "our" most important personalities who was also known internationally. Drtina's proposal met with approval, and so in November of that year the Czechoslovak State University in Bratislava became Comenius University. In the period of the wartime Slovak state, there was an effort to rename it as the University of Ľudovít Štúr (thereby rejecting anything Czechoslovak), but in 1939 it became the Slovak University instead. In 1954 the university returned to its earlier name of Comenius and has remained so ever since.

Janka Medveďová, Faculty of Arts