Stanislaw Konarski



From STANISLAS KONARSKI, 1929 by William John Rose

  .   .   Men counted it a Divine Providence that Poland escaped the horrors of the Wars of Religion ; and when the Catholic reaction triumphed under the able leadership of the Jesuits there was no occasion to be afraid of the few dissidents in the land. The fact that an asylum could safely be given to so distinguished a figure as the Czech educational apostle, John Amos Komensky (Comenius), showed that even outsiders were not unwelcome. All the same there was no one after John Zamoyski to question the sentiment prevailing in favour of Skarga's view that only the unity of the faith could guarantee the nation. In keeping with this there was introduced right after that preacher's death, a general censorship on all printed books. The closing of non-Catholic churches was ordered from time to time, and in 1658 [1660?] the Unitarians were expelled in a body from the land. Worse still, the further publication of the great John Dlugosz's history, only half of which had appeared up to 1616, was forbidden ; and the still greater Copernicus' philosophy of the universe was abandoned in favour of mediaeval conceptions derived from Ptolemy — a complete return to scholasticism. The nation went the way of Italy and Spain, of the France which was to revoke the Edict of Nantes, — blind just as France was to all the losses incurred thereby.   (  pp. 34-35 )


.  .   .   The results achieved in about eighteen months [ca. 1742] . . . can be summed up thus :

(1) The founding of the College for Gentlemen's Sons in a wing of the existing Warsaw College, with twenty students enrolled.

(2) The initiating of Normal College training along modern pedagogical lines, as a guarantee that people would be forthcoming, to put into practice what the [Piarist] Order was striving for,

(3) The publishing of Konarski's own Latin Grammar, in which liberal use was made of Comenius' method, to replace the long since antiquated book of Alvarez.

(4) The publishing of the treatise on The Correction of Our Speech, for use in the higher classes, and as a guide for all teachers of rhetoric and philosophy.

Of the two latter achievements something must be said here. Language is the instrument of thought, and without it thinking can get nowhere. A generation later Konarski will be insisting that no man can write well unless he thinks clearly : now he is concerned to revolutionize the style of writing, so that men's thoughts can find worthy expression at all. And the only way was to make a new start — from what was the foundation book of the day, the Latin Grammar. In Konarski's new one the word lists were given with their Polish equivalents, so as to ensure a visualization of the meaning for the very youngest pupil. Indeed in the whole first half of the book the explanations were given in Polish, and only from the section on Syntax on, did Latin take its place. With this went the practice, introduced from now on, that every pupil was to possess his own books. Thus was to vanish the long used habit of learning from rote on the basis of dictated passages, — a thing that defeated all the ends of true learning.

Another epoch-making step was taken either at once or very soon, with the introduction of the famous Orbis Pictus Sensualium — the picture-book method of learning Latin created by the Czech John Amos Comenius — without the pictures alas ! and along with it the Janua Linguae. The first was written in Hungary but published in Nuremberg in 1657, and of both works Polish editions existed almost from the start. Used by the few Protestant schools in the land, though abhorred by the Jesuits, they were now given a far wider field of usefulness as a result of Konarski's decision ; and three editions of the Orbis Pictus appeared in twelve years (1755-67). In 1770 the fourth edition appeared — this time with illustrations, thanks to the generous patronage of Adam Czartoryski ; 'who held it to be right and proper that such a work should become better known in the land.'

But this was a much later development ; and what concerns us now is the appearance of the work on diction — a bold exposure of bad form, bad taste and bad speech, with plenty of counsels to how the right way could be found. When one remembers that Rhetoric was the roof and crown of learning for the schoolboy and that the number who got farther was relatively small, one sees what a mission The Correction of Our Speech had. Especially was this true in a land where as a distinguished Piarist wrote

'Oratory rules on the lips of the monarch, it is the instrument of conviction and action in the senate, it warms men's hearts and assures them of victory in the field, it defends their rights and pronounces the verdict in the courts : and both in state and church, in public and private, both for doing and receiving honours, it is the one instrument of culture.'

What a farce then when speech was adulterated in form, and made a means of untold harm in the state !   ( pp. 106-08 )


.   .   .   John Locke’s Thoughts on Education, published eight years before Konarski was born, treats exclusively of the relations between parent and tutor on the one hand, and the son and pupil on the other. Not only this, but in section 70 the writer airs his suspicions as to the wisdom of sending boys to a public school at all ! This, of course, was to be expected from a man who was a tutor the greater part of his life. At the same time, there is here revealed the innate Puritanism of Locke’s view of life, his touchiness in matters of morals and his suspicion of all ‘culture’ as such. He cannot bear the thought of a man’s hazarding his son’s innocence and virtue for a little Greek and Latin.

But even if we conceded that Locke was not an unprejudiced witness, the more elaborate French work of Charles Rollin, published just a generation later, meets us with a long dissertation in Book VI on the relative merits of home and school training for boys. Using as a starting-point the shrewd remarks of Quintillian, the writer arrives at a conclusion which is at least favourable to the school. However, the French expert is not blind to the dangers which may come from daily contact from strangers in the schoolroom ; and in his case as in that of his pupil, the Polish reformer, the ideal is set of a school which without incurring any peril to morals, will combine the advantages of private training and the work in the class group.54

The key to Konarski’s whole pedagogy, in the college which was the coping-stone of his plan, was to supplant the private education of well-born boys, which was a very costly thing and had obvious demerits, by one given under the best possible conditions in a public institution. To this point he comes back again and again when laying the case for his college before the public, appealing to the best though on education in ancient and modern times. And so progressive was his scheme, that something like a revolution had to be achieved in the public mind before the confidence of parents could be won. He owed most of his inspiration for this work to the two thinkers already mentioned : and if we add Comenius, we shall have the three men to whom we must turn for the source of his ideas and his organization. It must, however, be observed, that even the most exhaustive comparative study is more than likely to lead the student astray in an effort to determine whence come the springs of light and knowledge, so that conclusions here set down remain at best probabilities.

One thins is obvious from the start, and a hint of it has already been given. Locke was no schoolman, and wrote as an amateur rather than a professional educationalist. His Thoughts is indeed a classic of English literature, but he would have been the last man to commend them to any one trying to create a school system for a nation. On the other hand, Rollin was one of the most experienced teachers and organizers of his age. Writing his treatise on studies after a generation of work in schools of different grades, he could justly claim that nothing escaped his notice, either in regard to the means or the end of schooling, either in the content of courses or the manner of conducting them. It is thus clear that the latter and not the former was Konarski’s real master. He owed much to both and through them and his other teachers, especially the Roman ones, to the whole tradition of Western education, from Greece and Rome to his own day. Nevertheless, the rest were the professors whose lectures he attended, while the Frenchman was his tutor.

When we try to set in order the principles in education which Konarski took over from Locke, we are at once faced with another difficulty, viz. that both of them may easily have got some of them from the same French originals, notable from Montaigne. What is more, there is no way of knowing that the Piarist did not discover some of them in the workings of his own mind on the problems he faced : for what man has thought in one age, man will think again in another, mind answering mind across the years.

On the end and aim of education, Locke writes thus : ‘For if those who are of gentlemen’s rank are by education once set right, they will quickly bring all the rest into order.’ His immediate purpose then is to find ‘the easiest, shortest and likeliest way to produce virtuous, useful and able men in their distinct calling.’ Following Montaigne then, whom he studied late in life just before writing his treatise (and whom in one great respect he cannot suffer at all), he places education far above instruction. The teacher must give endlessly more attention to disciplining the life of the pupil than to the acquisition of knowledge ; since the building of character counts for more than the attaining of intellectual distinction. So too, his great complaint against the schools of the day is summed up in Seneca’s words : Non vitae sed scholae discimus ! — we learn not to live but to dispute !

All this sounds very familiar to anyone coming to it after studying Konarski’s writings. How much of it the latter took from his English predecessor is hard to say, but this is true that Locke’s four treasures, ‘which every gentleman desires for his son besides the estate he leaves him,’ viz. Virtue, Wisdom, Breeding and Learning, were actually put by Konarski in the self-same order. For the Piarist even more than for Locke, the first was the essential thing : that perfection of mind which makes a man ‘able to deny himself his own desires . . . purely to follow what Reason directs as best.’ Nothing was more important than for men to know that only he that ruleth himself can hope to be a worthy ruler of others. As for wisdom, by which Locke meant prudence in facing one’s life-work, and breeding or a knowledge of savoir faire, surely the whole purpose and aim of the corporate life in the College for Gentlemen’s sons was to take care of this very thing !

And if we turn to the question of methods to be used in attaining these ends, we have Locke roundly condemning the rigour and cruelty of school discipline, especially the use of the rod. Only in cases of stubbornness and obstinate disobedience is corporal punishment admissible. Everywhere else sweet reasonableness and even gentleness must pervade the school-room. ‘By a certain tenderness in his whole character the tutor should make the child sensible that he loves him and desires nothing but his good.’

How far is all this from the kind of thing the worthy juryman of Piotrkow wanted for his sons ! Konarski knew well that for him to take this stand would imperil his whole undertaking ; yet he could not do otherwise, the more so as he had the unequivocal authority of Rollin for the same gentleness and affection. Every teacher, says the Frenchman, must know how to make himself at one and the same time both loved and feared. ’Sit rigor sed non exasperans, sit amor sed non emolliens !’ 55 And he quoted Seneca’s dictum — if you wish to be loved, love ! This alone was sufficient to sever radically the new schools from all the traditions of an older generation. It did not at once solve anything, but rather threw the centre of gravity elsewhere. From now on the teacher was to win or lose by the power of his own personality — a far harder task. There would be no short cuts, as of old. A new standard was thus set for the teaching profession, and as will later appear, this was the key pin of the whole Piarist reformation.

The changes in the courses themselves and in the subjects taught were dictated by the needs of the age. Education was fast being adapted to secular ends, men of affairs wanted to learn things which would serve them seven days a week. It is curious how with strange inconsistency Locke gives far more space to these things than to the training for virtue and wisdom. The mother tongue is of course made the foundation of all learning. Latin should be mastered, but without grammar ; and the setting of Latin compositions is not commended. No Greek is prescribed. Learning by rote is discourage, as doing little good. History and ethics are grouped together and to them is added the study of common and international law. Fencing, dancing, riding, and the other pursuits of the well-to-do must be included in the programme. So too manual labour, such as gardening or work at the joiner’s or other useful trade. Modern language strongly advised, provided they are learned well. At least they make travel easier, and this travel means a lot to all. Only the time for it is either the early teens (in the company of a tutor), or maturity, when one can do it alone — the opposite of what is at present the fashion. The former period is good for language study proper, the second for broadening one’s experience.

The Polish reformer departed in important respects from Locke’s outline, chiefly showing a tendency to conservatism. This of course was owing to the ends he was serving : those of an ecclesiastical Order, whose business in life was to work for a nation greatly suspicious of innovations of every kind. In general he had in Rollin a far safer guide than in Locke, and to the Frenchman we must now turn.

For Charles Rollin the ends of education were these : Science, manners, and religion. Thanks to the first, he says, Athens is immortal as distinguished from a thousand other cities of her day. The second is the foundation of the common life, ‘and the greatest erudition counts for nothing, if right living is lacking.’ As for religion, which by the way is not made a regular subject of the school curriculum, it is that which raises us above the things of earth and unites us with the eternal. Under its banner men hope some day to achieve on earth the kingdom of heaven.56

Konarski might put the first of the three last, but his main direction was the same, and in many respects he followed Rollin very closely. Especially is this true on his emphasis on the theory and practice of the Christian faith. So too in a hundred places he uses the French master’s language, his style of reasoning, his outlines of argument, even his illustrations : not because he had none of his own but because the others suited so well for his purpose. As samples these dicta taken from the Treatise on Studies will serve :

      ‘In order to make others love study, one must have brought oneself to love it.’
      ‘One must set oneself a double aim . . . to establish the affections and to develop the spirit.’
      ‘Good taste in literature infects also public morals and manner in which men live.’
      ‘The goal of the teacher is to accustom his pupils to serious work . . . to arouse in them a hunger and a thirst . . . The goal is to inspire in them the principles of honour and uprightness, to assist them to the acquiring of good habits.’

And so one might go on almost endlessly. It would perhaps endanger Konarski’s name and fame as a thinker to compare his two works on Diction and Right Thinking with the four volumes of Rollin, so much have they in common. Yet if the truth be told both men were greatly debtors to those who went before them — especially to Quintillan and Cicero, to Aristotle and Plato — and who is to say ‘This is mine !’ In Part Three of the Treatise, in which the Frenchman gives the fruit of his ripe experience as a manager of schools, we find such shrewd observations as the following (all of which Konarski tried to embody in his scheme for Poland):

(a) On the need for observing the nature of the boy and studying his needs and desires as a condition of success in teaching.

(b) On the matter of discipline in the classroom, to be handled along reasonable lines without an appeal to the rod.

(c) On the inculcating of truthfulness, of good manners and of compassion — things produced rather by example than by precept.

(d) On the respective duties of Rectors, and of Prefects, and on the preparation of masters so that they can rightly guide their pupils.

(e) On the duties and responsibilities of parents toward the education of their children.

If now one should ask to whom else Konarski was debtor for his views on education, the number of names given would be legion, embracing every age, and men of different tongues and creeds. He laid all who had gone before under contribution. Jouvancy’s work De Ratione Discendi et Docendi must have meant a lot to him, so warmly does he commend it to all in the ‘Ordinationes.’ The Latin primers of Vives are also prescribed, but the Piarist sees to have known in him rather the finished humanist than the pioneer of psychological approach to educational problems. There remains his fellow Slav, Comenius, a century his senior, whose helps to learning Latin and with it the mother-tongue Konarski set in the forefront of all his library. The question arises whether it was only the Orbis Pictus and the Janua that served him, or did he get behind the text-books to their author’s philosophy of teaching as well.

The appearances are all against such a direct tradition of pedagogical thought. Comenius not only belonged to a different age and a different speech, but he belonged to another church, at a time when the tension between the Catholic and Protestant camps was very unhappy indeed. This accounts in part for the fact that he virtually wielded no influence in a wider way on education in Poland, the land of his adoption ; and any chances he had were wrecked by his espousing the cause of the Swedish invaders. But the truth is that all Comenius’ thought on education was buried so deep in massive collected works, that few men had the courage to follow him. Poland alone may claim to be an exception to the accepted view set forth by Boyd that what Comenius did and taught was forgotten till Froebel rediscovered it two hundred years later.57

For it does seem likely that a man of Konarski’s calibre would want to know more about the man whose work was published in Warsaw after a long pause during his first term there as a professor (1722). It is to his credit that he saw the superior worth of Comenius’ methods, and did not for a moment hesitate to adopt them, even though the man was not a Catholic : just as Comenius himself had used without stint the rich stores of suggestion he found in Campanella. Nevertheless as Danysz observes, the Piarist editions of the Janua do not reveal an understanding of the deeper philosophy of the book as does the edition of 1675. The Order appears to have seen in it once more only a fine way to learn and teach Latin.58

It is significant that in many vital matters the minds and purpose of the two reformers meet. What the Czech during a generation dreamed of but never could accomplish, viz. the founding of his ideal school, that the Pole was privileged to realize, and here he brought to pass many things Comenius himself would have prescribed. The putting of the mother-tongue in a place of supremacy as opposed to Latin, both for social and educational ends ; the importance attached to religion as the coping-stone of the sciences ; the view that ‘the teacher is the servant and not the master,’ which involved that teaching should be adapted to the needs of the youth and not vice-versa — all this Konarski could take from his fellow Slav. On the other hand, the Piarist did not share his predecessor’s dislike of the ‘heather’ classics, nor did he even try to realize the type of democracy in the school advocated by Comenius — rather the reverse. In general Konarski interested himself little in the metaphysical foundations of pedagogy, and was rather concerned to take the boy as he found him and make a citizen of him, than to experiment on diverse ways of getting a better boy.

Both men desired that the ends of education should be practical, that they be hitched to everyday life in the community. For this reason both of them in theory laid stress on the training of the faculties as the end of education rather than on the acquiring of knowledge as such. Yet in actual practice that training was got by the effort to acquire knowledge ; and the ideal of growth as an end in itself, worthy of all praise as it is, was subordinated to that of power or capacity for useful service in the cause of justice and light.   ( pp. 206-215 )

54 Vide Charles Rollin, Traité sur Études (first published 1725-8), Amsterdam edition, Vol. VI, Preface.
55 Vide Rollin, op. cit., Vol. IV, p. 235 sqq.
56 Professor Kot seems to go too far — Hist. Wychow., p. 306 — when saying that Rollin ‘did not introduce the teaching of religion as a separate subject into the school.’ Cf. Traité sur Études, IV. p. 347 sqq., where Sundays and Saints’ Days are commended for teaching religion more or less on lines laid down by Fénélon, and these words are added : ‘Un jour particulier dans la semaine où l’on explique le Catechisme, et cela se pratique ordinairement dans tous les Collèges.’
57 Cf. Boyd, History of Western Education, London, 1921, p. 266.
58 Cf. Danysz, Studia z Dziejów Wychowania, Cracow, 1921, p. 318 sqq..


By way of concluding this very inadequate account of Konarski's views on education, attention should be drawn to one criticism, partly justified but not altogether relevant. Already in his own time the Reformer was charged with overloading the school programme, with too much supervision. Judged by twentieth-century standards, the critics were right, though they themselves may not have known why. Nevertheless things were not as bad as they looked, and a sample of the sort of relief given, as well as a proof of the up-to-datedness of the institution itself, is furnished by the 1755 chronicle of the Lubieszoff College, attended for a time by Kosciuszko. We read that with the coming of spring the whole institution livened up in view of the daily excursions of the three senior classes to the open country beyond he town, where they were given thorough instruction in surveying and the drawing of maps.

`It is a notable fact,' says Professor Koneczny, `that while the school itself was only one story, the building which housed the apparatus for physics, chemistry and mathematics, together with the library, was a two-story one. The school had its own botanical garden equipped with a conservatory and hot-houses, and on the river-bank was an orchard known as "Venice," as it was shot up with canals socked with fish. One of the canals led straight to the stream, where a dock served for anchoring boats. T the school here also belonged a joiner-shop, with turning lathes, a smithy, a grist mill, a tread mill, as well as baths and other needed equipment. One thus sees that the sentiments uttered much later by Staszic were already realized here : "that in all the sciences theory should be linked up with experiment, and that all exact truth should be set forth in its relation to everyday living !"'60   ( pp. 217-8 )

60 Cf. Konieczny, Polskie Logos i Ethos, Vol. I, pp. 149-50.


.   .   .   Professor Kot has pointed out in his essay on the subject that the internal evidence of the 'Debate on Ways and Means of Making the Nation Happy,' which took place in the philosophy class of the new College in 1757, points to Konarski's own authorship ; and the arguments set forth not only anticipate Effective Counsels in many ways, but touch on economic and administrative problems which the latter work does not deal with at all. It is significant that the class in rhetoric (undoubtedly under the guidance of the later famous Father Kaliszewski) discussed publicly 'the First Aim and End of Education.' In the following year, as if to ease the tension, the subjects are Deism on the one hand and the ethics of Happiness on the other ; but in 1759 the college leaders again took up the cudgels. Once more before distinguished assemblies the classes debated respectively the problem of improving the national morals, and the duties of every citizen. These materials were than brought together and published in suitable form to reach a wider public.61   (  pp. 219-200 )

61 Rozmowa na czem Dobro i Szczescie Rzplitej zaleglo, Warsaw, 1757, 8vo. Cf. Sprawozdania Adak. Umiej. Cracow, 1921 — where a résumé is given of Kot's essay, unfortunately still unpublished. Cf.. Kurjer Polski, 1757, No. 26-7 and 1758, No. 15

London : Jonathan Cape 1929.


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