Saturday, May 21, 2016

Albright's seventeenth-century intellectual hero

In their studies of Czech history, my father and his colleagues discerned two opposing dimensions: the fighters, such as Žižka, and the scholars. Foremost among the latter was Jan Ámos Komenský, best remembered for his writings while in exile. The bishop of the Hus-inspired Unity of Czech Brethren, Komenský was among those forced to flee in the aftermath of the Battle of White Mountain [1620]. He survived by eating nuts and escaped pursuers by hiding in the trunk of a linden tree.

. . .Komenský soon proved himself to be an educator of astonishing humanity and vision. . . . [H]e stressed universal literacy and access to free schools for girls and boys alike. He pioneered role playing in contrast to rote teaching methods, invented the illustrated children's book, and wrote an essay on language that was reportedly used by Native American students at Harvard. . . . Although religious martyrs and warrior generals have places in my personal pantheon, Komenský is the early thinker whom I most admire.
Madeleine Albright, Prague Winter: A Personal Story of Remembrance and War, 1937 – 1948 (New York: HarperCollins, 2012), pp.  40-41.

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