Since the fall of Communism in 1989, Czech pedagogy has sought a non-totalitarian approach to education. Given the dehumanising tendencies of the totalitarian regime, there prevails an overall consensus amongst contemporary Czech educationalists that one of the key principles of the school system transformation is that of humanisation. The purpose of education is to humanise the human being, that is, to form an authentic versatilely developed humanity.
However, in spite of the humanising intentions and rhetoric, contemporary education recognises its failure to achieve the goal. It is true that the post-totalitarian school succeeds relatively well in equipping learners with the various pragmatic skills and competencies necessary for their efficient self-assertion in life or—more currently—in the marketplace, but it fails to form an authentic humanity on either a personal or an inter-personal level. The school, it is said, is reduced merely to the functional aspect of education, “producing efficient employees or experts”, but failing to cultivate the “whole humanity of an individual”. The critical question is why. Is the problem a lack of appropriate pedagogical methodology? Is it a lack of financial resources? Or a lack of human resources, i.e., teachers' motivation, skills or abilities? Briefly, is the problem structural, pedagogical, economic, political or other?
Without downplaying the importance of these aspects for effective education, my argument in this work is that the main reason for the failure of the contemporary Czech educational system to achieve the desired humanisation is primarily theological. The Enlightenment end of metaphysics substantially changed the modern anthropological paradigm. A theo-centric understanding of humanity was replaced by an anthropo-centric one, thus reducing the transcendent or teleological dimension in human beings. Humanity which is free of a transcendent relation, which is not subordinated to anything outside itself, and whose telos does not transcend itself, lacks something foundationally human, and consequently forces its own crisis. Both Herbartianism and Progressivism, representing the two main pedagogical traditions influencing contemporary Czech pedagogy, rest on this reductive notion of the human being.
Besides Herbartianism and Progressivism, in Czech pedagogical tradition, there is the heritage of Jan Amos Komenský, internationally known as Comenius. He was a Czech 17th century Brethren bishop, philosopher and educator who is celebrated especially for his timeless educational ideas, which earned him the epithet “the teacher of nations”. His theological notion of the human being as a fallen Imago Dei that needs to be restored, functioned as an anthropological foundation for his unique educational project. Education in his view plays a soteriological role in turning one's attention away from his or her self-centred being, and leading him or her back to an authentic vertical relationship to God, which in turn leads to the restoration of broken horizontal human relationships: to one's self and to others.
This study demonstrates that contemporary education's failure to achieve humanisation is related to anthropological reductionism, which does not take into account the transcendent dimension of humanity. Komenský's pedagogy, on the contrary, assumes such an anthropology, thus offering the very element contemporary education lacks, and I believe needs, in order to achieve the intended humanisation. By revisiting Komenský I do not suggest replacing modern education with that of Komenský, but rather complementing it. Instead of ignoring the transcendent dimension of humanity, my proposal intends to develop a constructive approach to pedagogy which both draws on the experience of modern pedagogical science, and at the same time takes into account the twofold transcendence of human beings, which Komenský expresses in theological terms as one's relationship to God and to others.