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Giving Tuesday

Stanislaus Konarski

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Born in 1700; died in 1773. This great reformer of Polish schools was a Piarist who, during a visit to Rome after his ordination, received there the first idea of his life's mission. Returning to Poland through France and Germany (whose systems of education he studied on his way), and at first unsuccessful in his plans, he set to compiling the "Volumina Legum", the first volume appearing in 1732. About the end of Augustus II's reign, and during the interregnum which followed, he wrote much in favour of Stanislaus Leszczynski, and, subsequently travelling in the Netherlands and in France, stayed for a time at the exiled king's court. Here he became convinced that reform in politics must be preceded by reform in education, and, returning home in 1738, he attempted to change the subject-matter and methods of education in Poland. Good school-books and teachers were necessary ; the latter he tried to train himself as "Magister novitiorum" at Rzeszow college, and then sent them either to be tutors of young noblemen or to study abroad at his own cost. In 1740 he opened a collegium nobilium at Warsaw, a most important experiment. In the first year he had but one pupil, in the second there were more than ten, while in the third he had not room for all who came. The teachers he had instructed now began to help him in writing school-books, etc. In 1754 he built a college and obtained from Benedict XIV a change in the rule of the order: henceforth every Piarist was to be a teacher. There were soon as many schools as Piarist convents, and education was no longer a privilege of the nobility alone. The classics, history and geography, natural science, philosophy, Roman and Polish law, were taught, together with the modern languages; and for the first time the Polish tongue was taught as a separate subject. Mental, rather than purely mnemonic, work was encouraged; moral education was insisted upon; emulation succeeded to fear ; self-sacrifice, honour, patriotism were inculcated as the duties of a citizen. Konarski had found theatricals in use; he maintained the custom, thinking these performances might become very instructive, had Racine and Corneille performed, and himself wrote a tragedy, "Epaminondas". He also introduced discussions and debating societies for advanced pupils. Together with this, he laboured to reform style in Poland, wrote "De emendandis eloquenti vitiis", and attacked the bad taste prevalent at the time. The Piarist schools succeeded so well that all others were obliged to follow his reform. Konarski was subjected to envious attacks, and the Papal nuncio, Durini, suspected his orthodoxy. He cleared himself by his book, "De religione honestorum hominum".

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Having effected a complete reformation in education, he returned to politics. From 1760 to 1763 appeared his "Effective Way of Deliberating", which proved that the right of one member to veto the proceedings of the whole Diet had never been a law, but an evil custom, and showed from the procedure of other parliaments that a working majority was sufficient. The impression made by this work was immense, and even the most bigoted partisans of the veto were convinced. Thenceforward this custom was doomed-in itself a great step forward and a preliminary to the constitution of the Third of May. But the book contains many other valuable ideas. His style is clear, calm, eloquent, rarely passionate. He did much for the Piarist publications (v.g. the "Diplomatic Codex "), and the "Volumina Legum" is his work. A great admirer of French civilization and taste -- which, however, were not without danger in their tendencies, as was subsequently seen -- he was also the last Latin writer in Poland ; his "Opera Lyrica" (1767) are perfect in style and diction. King Stanislaus Augustus caused a medal to be struck in his honour, with the well-merited inscription, "Sapere auso".

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