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Katalin Fehér: The Pedagogical Notions of the Enlightment in Contemporary Sermons

The author presents sermons reflecting and popularising the pedagogical notions of the Enlightment. No matter which denomination the writers of the sermons from the turn of the 18 19th century belonged to (the Catholic János Dianovszky, the Calvinist János Szalay, József Fábián, Ist-ván Gombási and János Herepei, and the Unitarian Gergely Kozma), they all knew the ideas of the Enlightment well. We know of some of them that they had studied abroad, where they could meet the new trend directly, while the others found the works of enlightened English, French and German authors in their readings (of often prohibited publications). All of them worked as priests or parsons in villages or small towns, and their tasks included giving information as well as preaching. They believed in the great power of thoughts communicated from the pulpit. At the turn of the 18–19th century, the small village schools were in very bad condition in Hungary. Only a small percentage of the children of the village population attended school regularly, and there was hardly any money for the maintenance of the schools and the salary of the teachers. It was important to communicate the demand of compulsory, state controlled and supported schooling and mother tongue education to every authority. When girls grew up in total igno-rance, parents had to be convinced that it would not harm the morals of their daughters if they learnt at least to read and write and if they knew of the most basic rules of sanitation. When provate education was done almost exclusively by foreign tutors, it was useful to emphasize the dangers of this practice. Thus the priests and pastors influenced by the notions of the Enlightment spread the new pedagogical ideas within the borders of their profession and popularised them among the people. However, they did more than this, as, because of the enlightened reform thoughts thay verbalised, the sermons presented and analysed in this paper contributed to the development of pedagogical thinking in Hungary, and to the emergence of pedagogical literature and terminology in Hungarian. Thus, they deserve a place in the history of the theory of Hungarian education.

MAGYAR PEDAGÓGIA 98. Number 2. 85-97. (1998)

Levelezési cím / Address for correspondence: Fehér Katalin, H–1075 Budapest, Kazinczy u. 23–27.


Magyar Tudományos Akadémia