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Professor Hanus delivered a very interesting lecture last evening, in commemoration of the three hundredth anniversary of the birthday of John Amos Comenius. With the advent of Francis Bacon, new life was given to the intellectual world and Comenius was among the first to be influenced by it. He determined to devote his life to educating the people and we are still working with the ideas and objects which he evolved three hundred years ago. That he is not forgotten is evident from the extensive preparations which have been made throughout Europe and America to celebrate his birthday. He has won a universal significance and his influence has been world-wide.
It was in 1654, that he was invited to become the president of Harvard University, but offers of the Swedish minister proved more attractive. If he had accepted the position here, it is probable that America and not Europe would lead in thoroughness of education. The principles which Comenius represented are embodied in his various writings, the most important of which are the "Great Didactic," the "Gate of Languages" and the "World Illustrated." The object of the first of these was, as expressed in the subtitle, "to teach everybody everything" and "to search out a rule in accordance with which the teachers teach less and the learners learn more." Knowledge, virtue and religious conviction, the three things to be sought after in life, are to be obtained through study. To educate humanity so as to give it an adequate consciousness of itself and to make it useful and happy are the aims which Comenius had always in view. The system of teaching he recommended was by a proper consideration of the learner and and the subject-matter. This method will always be successful since it is in sympathy with nature. Individual tastes and capacities were to be kept in mind and correlation and coordination were indispensable.
The education of man for humanity by the method of nature is the one great principle of Comenius. He was also in favor of the equal education of both sexes, the improvement and enrichment of the curriculum by elevating the mother tongue to the first place and the education of everybody. Even at that early date, we find manual training being advocated. Men should be educated, said Comenius, so that when they enter the world they should not be mere observers but participants.
Of Comenius's text-books, the Janua linguarum or "Gate of Languages" was the most popular and it was used in Germany for over 200 years. Copies and translations were also brought to America and it was probably used in Boston Latin School and possibly in Harvard itself. There are four copies in the Library bearing the names of Harvard men.
After the death of Comenius in 1671, nearly a century and a half elapsed during which he was little thought of and later reformers spent their time rediscovering the ideas and principles for which he became famous. Now, however, the world is awakening to a realization of his greatness and he is finally being assigned to his proper position.
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