John Amos Commenius
The “Teacher of the Nation”, as Czech like to call John Amos Commenius, was born in Přerov, a small town in Moravia. He received protestant upbringing was part of Unitas Fratrum, a religious group, basing its teachings on social equality and life in accordance with the Bible. John became the group’s bishop and became a teacher. Unfortunately, after the White Mountain battle in 1620 and victory of the Catholics, he felt like an outcast. His wife and two children died during an anti-protestant intervention and Commenius decided to emigrate. He lived in England, Poland, Romania and Sweden. Towards the end of his life, he finally settled in Amsterdam and died in 1670. He is buried in Naarden, a town near the Dutch capital.
Apart from teaching, Commenius was a philosopher in his own right. His book “Labyrinth of the World and the Paradise of the Heart” was an allegorical description of life in general. Telling a story about a traveler who encountered fame, love, misfortune and delusion, Commenius forms his vision of the world as a labyrinth. Clever criticism of the society is completed with a moral: to find your way out of the labyrinth, you have to look inside your heart.
Commenius was a great teacher and wrote many didactic books. He believed that children should learn through play and was against corporal punishment, which was at the time widely practiced. He put an emphasis on teacher’s authority, but also saw students as individuals. His writings like “Didactica magna” or “Orbis pictus” are essential to professors and theoreticians over the world and have helped shape the way we see education today.