The Great Didactic: Chapters 1-4 Dear God, Its me John

Recently I was thinking about the foundation of our education system and its philosophical underpinnings.  As I was doing this it dawned on me that I have only ever really read about this philosophy and I never read the original texts.  One of my summer goals is to sprinkle a little knowledge into the mix of my fluffy summer novel reading, so I am reading The Great Didactic by John Amos Comenius and I thought I’d bring you along with me.


Chapter 1: Man is the Highest the most absolute, and the most excellent of things created.

The only really interesting thing about this chapter was that I read it in the voice of Bill and Ted from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.

There was a most bogus talk about how god is great and we are made in his image so therefore we are also great.

Nothing about teaching

Chapter 2: The Ultimate End of Man is beyond this Life.

Yup, more god stuff.  Comenius talks about how there are three stages of life: 1) in the womb 2) life 3) afterlife. The first 2 are all in preparation for the 3rd.

And again nothing about teaching.

Chapter 3: This Life is but a Preparation for Eternity

Life is not really life, but is the preparation for the afterlife, which is really life.

Still nothing about teaching

Chapter 4: There are three stages in the Preparation for Eternity: To Know oneself, (and with oneself all things); to Rule Oneself, and to Direct Oneself to God.

So I think the title pretty much tells it all. Though a glimmer of hope for the future, I can see that this preparation is why we should educate.

Still nothing about teaching.

My take on it

I once was part of a conversation with a Roman Catholic priest of the Dominican order.  The conversation ranged over many topics and settled on the idea that “Man has dominion over nature”.  During a clever argument on his part, he paused and said “Do you believe in God?” “No, I don’t” “Then there is nothing to discuss…  How about them Phillies?”

It took me a bit to understand what he meant and what I figured out is this: When the premise of your argument is that there is a god and the Bible is his truth and you are talking to someone who does not agree with that premise then the discussion is over.  There is no foundation to the talk, nothing to build on.

So here we are four chapters in and nothing to show for it.  I had come into this book thinking that it was about teaching and so far there has been some pretty words in the Greeting and a whole mess of stuff about god.  Nicely documented as to where in the Bible the verses or premises come from, but still not about teaching.

So to you the ghost of John Amos Comenius I ask do we have anything to talk about?  Is your whole book filled with god?  If so this will be a very boring series of blog posts.  So come on man, give me something to talk about.

And to my readers always remember to be excellent to each other.

Next Up Chapter 5: The Seeds of these Three (Learning, Virtue and Piety) are Naturally Implanted in Us (Link added 6/30/14)

Now it is your turn.  Do you agree with my summary?  Did I gloss over something you see as important?  What are your thoughts on what Comenius or I had to say?

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Jennifer teaches science in a public school in Pennsylvania. She lives there with her husband and two dogs.

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