On this day September 15, 1616
The first non-aristocratic, free public school in Europe is opened in Frascati, Italy.on the initiative of Saint Joseph Calasanz.
One year later, Pope Paul V approved the “Congregation of the Pious Schools,” the first religious institute dedicated essentially to teaching.
During the following years Calasanctius established Pious Schools in various parts of Europe.
As recognized by Ludwig Von Pastor, Joseph Calasanctius was the founder of the first free public school in modern Europe.
It was a revolutionary initiative, a radical break with the class privileges that kept the masses marginalized and in poverty.
In the history of education, Joseph Calasanctius is the great educator of the poor, offering education free of charge to all classes of society, without discrimination.
Calasanctius displayed the same moral courage, in his attitude to victims of the Inquisition, such as Galileo and Campanella, and in the acceptance of Jewish children in his schools, where they were treated with the same respect as other pupils. Similarly, Protestant pupils were enrolled in his schools in Germany.
He organized and systematized a method of educating primary school pupils through progressive levels or cycles; a system of vocational training; and a system of public secondary education.
In an era when no one else was interested in public education, Calasanctius managed to set up schools with a highly complex structure. He was concerned with physical education and hygiene. He addressed the subject in various documents and requested school directors to monitor children’s health.
Calasanctius taught his students to read both in Latin and in the vernacular. While maintaining the study of Latin, he was a strong defender of vernacular languages, and had textbooks, including those used for teaching Latin, written in the vernacular. In that respect he was more advanced than his contemporaries.
Calasanctius placed great emphasis on the teaching of mathematics. Training in mathematics and science was considered very important in his Pious schools, both for pupils and teachers. But Calasanctius’ main concern was undoubtedly the moral and Christian education of his students.
As both priest and educator, he considered education to be the best way of changing society. All his writing is imbued with his Christian ideals, and the constitutions and regulations of the Pious schools were based on the same spirit. Calasanctius created an ideal image of a Christian teacher and used it to train the teachers who worked with him.
Calasanctius was the first educator to advocate the preventive method: it is better to anticipate mischievous behaviour than to punish it. This method was later developed by St John Bosco, the founder of the Salesian Schools.
In terms of discipline, and contrary to the prevailing philosophy of his own and subsequent eras, Calasanctius favored the mildest punishment possible. While believing that punishment was necessary in certain cases, he always preached moderation, love and kindness as the basis of any discipline.