You leave the vast Kongresové Centrum on your left and follow the signs to Vyšehrad. Walk through the Táborská Brána (Tabor Gate) and Jedličkův Ústav (Jedlička Institute) is on your left.
We are at Vyšehrad, standing in front of a center for children with disabilities, the founding of which in 1913 is connected with two personalities – the instigator, Rudolf Jedlička, whose name the school bears, and the first Czech teacher of children with special needs, František Bakule. They both have memorial plaques here.
Dr. Rudolf Jedlička (1869-1926) was the founder of Czech radiology and therapeutic rehabilitation. He enjoyed a good reputation as a military physician. As a scientist, Jedlička promoted the use of Roentgen rays in diagnostics and cancer treatment. He tested this new technology first on himself and faced the the painful consequences of this for the rest of his life. Perhaps that personal experience of extensive pain led him to help others, as a surgeon and university professor and as an active philanthropist. We must mention at least two important institutions that he founded and funded: the first is, of course, this institute, where both the methods used, and the ethos were progressive. Jedlička’s objective was that children with disabilities should be taught to live – once they leave the institute – independent and self-sufficient lives. Jedlička was also the spirit behind the establishment of the sanatorium in Podolí, which opened a year later in 1914. This architecturally fascinating building today serves as a children’s hospital. The life of Rudolf Jedlička, who was born in Lysá nad Labem, is firmly connected with Vyšehrad and he is buried in Vyšehrad Cemetery. The humanist ethos of his life is summed up his own creed: “It is not important to live long, but to be satisfied with the way of life one lives and be happy with one’s actions. If there was in one’s happiness a bit of happiness of others, then that life was beautiful.”
Jedlička invited to his institute František Bakule (1877-1957), the founder and a former director of a Progressive Institute in Malá Skála. Bakule’s life as a man and a teacher –– just like Přemysl Pitter’s – was changed by the writings of Leo Tolstoy, in particular his Pedagogical Essays. Having read them, Bakule no longer used physical punishment with his pupils, there was self-government in the classroom, and the children set up a magazine. Bakule gradually developed his own concept of esthetic education in writing, drawing and singing and taught things that the children themselves thought useful. He considered a loving approach to children and the development of the imagination to be the most effective educational means. The path to knowledge was the pupils’ own independent work, and they were encouraged to help one another. Bakule drew inspiration from folk culture and traditional songs sung in a choir. In his educational work, he found and emphasized the connections between perception, imagination, empathy, solidarity and work.
In the Jedlička Institute, physical creative work became the crux of all education along with teaching based on the needs of the children and leading them to independence and future economic self-sufficiency. Work activities themselves had a therapeutic effect and Bakule attended courses to learn the crafts of basketry, carpentry, bookbinding etc., and then set up workshops in the Institute. Bakule never followed a curriculum but always intuitively drew on specific situations facing the children. The children made great advances in their practical education, and although there was no room for teaching writing, reading, and counting, they also mastered these skills in a very short time, for example, when they really wanted to write a letter to their parents or to read a letter from them.
Bakule was also one of the first promoters of integration. During WWI, a school for wounded soldiers was established in the Institute, where veterans and children were coeducated. He also pursued the idea of joint education of children with disabilities and without and in 1918 organized a holiday camp attended by children from the Jedlička Institute and able-bodied children from Prague. He also formed an integrated choir.
Although Jedlička tried to shield Bakule, his protégé’s progressive and intuitive approach was increasingly in conflict with the pedagogical authorities who pointed out that children must have order and a firm schedule. Ultimately, this led to conflict with Rudolf Jedlička himself. Together with several of his pupils, Bakule left the Institute, but thanks to the growing fame of Bakule’s Little Singers (Bakulovi zpěváčci), who performed throughout Europe and the USA, and with the support of T.G. Masaryk and the Red Cross, he founded a new institution in Smíchov. However, in 1933, during the economic crisis, this new institution went bankrupt and was sold at an auction. The rest of his life Bakule spent in retirement and poverty.
The enormous success of Bakule’s singers brings to mind the successful music band, The Tap Tap Orchestra, made up of today’s Jedlička Institute graduates.
- L. N. Tolstoy: Tolstoy as Teacher: Leo Tolstoy’s Writings on Education. New York, 2000.
- Online Introduction to Tolstoy’s Writing on Education: https://www.ourcivilisation.com/smartboard/shop/smmnsej/tolstoy/chap4.htm
- Bakule’s Little Singers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m916m98y29k
- The Tap Tap: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8qacVvm-8ao
You can relax in the Na Hradbách beer-garden above St. Martin’s Rotunda and then it takes about ten minutes to get from the Jedlička Institute to Albertov. Follow the main road to Vratislavova Street. Turn right to Přemyslova, cross the tram-tracks and go straight. From Horská turn left to Votočkova. Albertov is the second street on the right, and at the end on the right is a memorial plaque.