The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Ratke, Wolfgang

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RATKE, rät kė, Wolfgang (better known by his Latinized name of Ratichius), German educator: b. Wilster, Holstein, 18 Oct. 1571; d. Erfurt, 27 April 1635. He was trained in the Johanneum at Hamburg and the University of Rostock. Between 1603 and 1611 he lived in Holland and was the inaugurator of a new plan of school reform. The essence of his system was to discard the old memory and rote method of teaching children; to interest them, by presenting things to their observation, and, afterward, names — a reversal of the method then in vogue; to teach them their mother tongue first and thence proceed to foreign languages. At first he met with little success in propagating his views. In 1618, however, he settled at Köthen, Anhalt, and Prince Ludwig von Anhalt furnished him with the means of opening a school to be conducted according to his own ideas. Owing to certain faults of his own, as well as to the unsettled religious condition of Germany at that time, he was obliged to leave Köthen and settled at Magdeburg in 1721. Here he made a second failure and afterward led a somewhat wandering life. But his influence upon his contemporaries and posterity was much greater than would be supposed from the failure of his own attempts to put his plan in practice. Consult Krause, ‘Wolfgang Ratke, im Licht seiner und seiner Zeitgenossen Briefe’ (1872); Schumann, ‘Die echte Methode W. Ratkes’ (1876).