CCH HomeClassical Christian Education Links

Text Only

CCH Contents

Introduction to Classical Education

On the Trivium

The Grammar Stage

The Dialectic Stage

The Rhetoric Stage

Classical Homeschooling

Classical Curriculum and Online Catalog


Classical Education Links
ce links

Favorite Links

Reciprocal Links

What’s New at CCH
What’s New

About CCH
About CCH

Site Map
Search CCH

Art History Index
Art History

Cross and crown of thorns, the symbols of our Lord’s suffering for our sakes

Classical Christian
Classical Education
at Home

Christine Miller

CE Links:
1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica: The History of Education

This page last revised:
November 2002

Copyright © 1997-2002

1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica
The History of Education

Greek Education

In all ages the claims of the individual and those of the community have struggled for the mastery as the ultimate principles of life. As one or the other has prevailed, the conception of education has emphasized social service or individual success as the primary end. The true harmony of human life will only be attained when these two impulses, contradictory on their own level, are united in a higher synthesis which sees each as the complement of the other in a life whose purpose is neither simple egoism nor pure altruism. Until that conception of life is attained and held generally there can be no sure and universally accepted conception of the aim and function of education. Much of the interest of the history of education turns on the relation of these two principles as determinants of its aim.

In ancient Greece the supremacy of the state was generally unquestioned, and, especially in the earlier times, the good man was identified with the good citizen. No doubt, in education, and in later days philosophers, such as Plato and Aristotle, saw clearly that the round of the duties of citizenship did not exhaust the life of the individual. With them the highest life was one of cultured leisure in which energies were mainly concentrated on the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake. But this “diagogic” life was only for the select few; for the undistinguished many the fulfilment by each of the duties of his station remained the measure of worthy life, though such duties were regarded as affecting the individual and private relations of the citizens in a much more intimate way than in former and ruder ages. And for those who devoted their lives to the highest culture, the essential preliminary condition was the existence of such a state as would form the most favourable environment for their pursuits and the most stable foundation for their leisured life. Thus Greek thought was saturated with the conception of life as essentially a set of relations between the individual and the city-state of which he formed an integral part. The first aim of education was therefore to train the young as citizens.

This training must, of necessity, be of a specific kind; for, like other small communities, the Greek city-states showed a life fundamentally one in conception, under various specific forms. Each state had its special character, and to this character the education given in it must conform if it were to be an effective instrument for training the citizens. From these fundamental conceptions flowed the demands of Plato and Aristotle that education should be regulated in all its details by the state authority, should be compulsory on all free citizens, and should be uniform -- at any rate in its earlier stages -- for all. In the Republic and the Laws, Plato shows to what extreme lengths theory may go when it neglects to take account of some of the most pertinent facts of life. For the guardian-citizens of the ideal state family life and family ties are abolished; no lower community is to be allowed to enter into competition with the state. Aristotle, indeed, did not go to these extreme lengths; he allowed the family to remain, but he seems to have regarded it as likely to affect children more for evil than for good.

In the essential principles laid down by both philosophers as to the relation of the state to education, and in the corollaries they drew from that relation, they were not at variance with the accepted Greek theory on the subject. It is true that the actual practice of Greek states departed, and often widely, from this ideal, for, especially in later centuries, the Greek always tended to live his own life. The nearest approach to the theory was found in Sparta, where the end of the state as a military organization was kept steadily in view, and where, after early childhood, the young citizens were trained directly by the state in a kind of barrack life -- the boys to become warriors, the girls the mothers of warriors. It was this feature of Spartan education, together with the rude simplicity of life it enforced, which attracted Plato, and, to a less extent, Aristotle. In Athens there had of old been state laws insisting on the attendance of the children of the free citizens at school, and, in some degree, regulating the schools themselves. But at the time of Plato these had fallen into desuetude, and the state directly concerned itself only with the training of the ephebi, for which, we learn from Aristotle’s Constitution of Athens, somewhat elaborate provisions were made by the appointment of officers, and the regulation of both intellectual and physical pursuits. For children and youths under the phebic age there was no practical regulation of schools or palaestra by the state. Yet there is no doubt that the education really given was in conformity with Athenian ideals of culture and life, and that it was generally received by the children of free citizens, though of course the sons of the wealthy, then as now, could and did continue their attendance at school to a later age than their poorer brethren. The education of girls was essentially a domestic training. What Plato and Aristotle, with the theorist’s love of official systematic regulation, regarded as the greatest defect of Athenian education was in reality its strongest point. In practice, the harmony between individual liberty and social claims was much more nearly attained under a system of free working out of common thoughts and ideals that would have been the case under one of irresistible imposition from without of a rigid mould.

The instruments of education everywhere found to be in harmony with the Greek conception of life and culture were essentially twofold -- music, or literary and artistic culture, for the mind, and systematic gymnastic for the body. Plato, in the Republic, shows that the latter, as well as the former, affects the character, and doubtless, though not formulated, this was generally more or less vaguely felt. But Greek gymnastic was really an individual training, and therefore made only indirectly for the aim of cultivating the social bonds of citizenship. Ancient Greece had nothing corresponding in value in this respect to the organized games which form so important a feature in the school life of modern England. The musical training was essentially in the national literature and music of Greece, and this could obviously be carried to very different lengths. The elements of mathematical science were also commonly taught. The essential purpose throughout was the development of the character of a loyal citizen of Athens. As Athenian culture advanced, increasing attention was paid to diagogic studies, especially in the ephebic age, with a corresponding decrease of attention to merely physical pursuits; hence the complaints of such satirists as Aristophanes of a growing luxury, effeminacy and corruption of youths: complaints apparently based on a comparison of the worst features of the actual present with an idealized and imaginative picture of the virtues of the past. Such comparison is, indeed, implicit in much of Plato and Aristotle as well as in Aristophanes.

But a disintegrating force was already at work in the educational system of Greece which Plato and Aristotle vainly opposed. This was the rhetorical training of the Sophists, the narrowly practical and individualistic aim of which was entirely out of harmony with the older Greek ideals of life and culture. In a democratic city-state the orator easily became a demagogue, and generally oratory was the readiest path to influence and power. Thus oratory opened the way to personal ambition, and young men who were moved by that passion eagerly attended the Sophist schools where their dominant motive was strengthened.

Further, the closer relations between the Greek states, both in nearer and farther Hellas, led naturally to the diminution of differences between civic ideals, and, as a consequence, to a more cosmopolitan conception of higher education. This process was completed by the loss of political independence of the city-states under the Macedonian domination. Henceforth, higher education became purely intellectual, and its relation to political and social life increasingly remote. This, combined with the growing rhetorical tendency already noticed, accounts for the sterility of Greek thought during the succeeding centuries. The means of higher education were, indeed, more fully organized. The university of Athens was the outcome of a fusion of the private philosophical schools with the state organization for the training of the ephebi, and there were other such centres of higher culture, especially in after years at Alexandria, where the contact of Greek thought with the religions and philosophies of Egypt and the East gave birth in time to the more or less mystical philosophies which culminated in neo-platonism. But at Athens itself thought became more and more sterile, and education more and more a mere training in unreal rhetoric, till the dissolution of the university by Justinian in AD. 529.

Roman Education

Thus when Rome conquered Greece, Greek education had lost that reality which is drawn from intimate relation to civic life, and the fashionable individualistic schools of philosophy could do nothing to replace the loss. It was, then, an education which had largely lost its life-springs that was transferred to Rome. In the earlier centuries of the republic, Roman education was given entirely in family and public life. The father had unlimited power over his son’s life, and was open to public censure if he failed to train him in the ordinary moral, civic and religious duties. But it is doubtful if there were any schools, and it is certain there was no national literature to furnish an instrument of culture. A Roman boy learnt to reverence the gods, to read, to bear himself well in manly exercises, and to know enough of the laws of his country to regulate his conduct. This last he acquired directly by hearing his father decide the cases of his clients every morning in his hall. The rules of courtesy he learnt similarly by accompanying his father to the social gatherings to which he was invited. Thus easly Roman education was essentially practical, civic and moral, but its intellectual outlook was extremely narrow.

When a wider culture was imported from Greece it was, however, the form rather than the spirit of true Hellenic education that was transferred. This was, indeed, to some extent inevitable from the decadent state of Greek Hellenized education at the time, but it was accentuated by the essentially practical character of the Roman mind.

The instrument of education first introduced was Greek literature, much of which was soon translated into Latin. In time the schools of the grammatic, teaching grammar and literature, were supplemented by schools of rhetoric and philosophy, though the philosophy taught in them was itself little more than rhetorical declamation. These furnished the means of higher culture for those youths who did not study at Alexandria or Athens, and were also preparatory to studies at those universities. Under the Empire the rhetorical schools were gradually organized into a state system, the general principles of administration being laid down by imperial decree, and even such details as the appointment and rate of payment of the professors, at first left to the municipalities, being in time assumed by the central government. There is no evidence of any state regulation or support of the lower schools. This widening of culture affected both boys and girls, the domestic education of the latter being supplemented by a study of literature. But it is the higher training in rhetoric which is especially characteristic of Hellenized Roman education.

The conception of a rhetorical culture is seen at its best in Quintilian’s Institutio Oratoria, the most systematic treatise on education produced by the ancient world. With Quintilian, the ideal of an orator was a widely cultured, wise and honourable man. And at first the teaching of rhetoric undoubtedly made for higher and true culture. But with the autocracy, soon passing into tyranny, of the empire, rhetoric ceased to be a preparation for real life. The true function of oratory is to persuade a free people. When it cannot be applied to this purpose it becomes little more than a means of intellectual frivolity, or, at the best, an exhibition of cultured ingenuity. Under the empire a rhetorical training was, indeed, turned in not a few instances to practical but most unworthy uses by the delators; a result made possible by the legal system which rewarded delation with a considerable portion of the estate of the condemned. Even apart from this, the education in rhetoric had an increasingly evil effect both on the culture and on the character of the higher classes in the Roman empire. Out of real connexion with life as it was, it sought its subjects in the realms of the fanciful and the trivial, and with unreality of topic went of necessity deterioration of style. The vivid presentment of living thought gave way to that inflated and bombastic abuse of meretricious ornament and far-fetched metaphor in which human speech is always involved when it sets forth ideas, or shadows of ideas, which grow out of no conviction in the speaker and are expected to carry no conviction to the hearer. Imitation of the form of great models, without the substance of thought which underlay them, led to a general unreality and essential falseness of mental life. Further, the continual gazing with admiration on the productions of the past, and the conception of excellence as consisting in closeness of imitation, induced a servile attitude of mind towards authority in all too close agreement with the political servility which marked the Roman court. Such an attitude was essentially hostile to mental initiative, and thus rhetoric became not merely an art of expression but a type of character.

Nor was there anything in the general conditions of society to counterbalance the ill effects of school and university education. Quintilian lamented that, even in his time, the old Roman family education by example was corrupted; and the moral degradation of later times, though it has doubtless been exaggerated, was certainly real and widespread. Nor does the religious revival of Paganism which synchronized with the early centuries of Christianity appear to have effected any reform in life. Alexandria, the birthplace of neo-platonism and the intellectual centre of the later empire, was also a very sink of moral obliquity.

Christianity and Education

It was into such a decaying civilization, which by its want of vitality sterilized education, oppressing it under the weight of a dead tradition, that Christianity brought new life. Of course, careful instruction in the Faith was given in catechetical schools, of which that at Alexandria was the most famous. But the question as to the attitude of Christians towards the ordinary classical culture was important. On the one hand, literature was saturated with Paganism, and the Pagan festivals formed a regular part of school life. On the other hand, the Pagan education offered the only means of higher culture, and thus furnished the only weapon with which Christians could successfully meet their controversial antagonists. Quite at first, no doubt, when the converts to the new faith were few and obscure, the question scarcely arose; but as men of culture and position were attracted to the Church it became urgent. The answers given by the Christian leaders were various, and largely the outcome of temperament and previous training. The Greek Fathers, especially Clement of Alexandria (150-217) and Origen (185-253), regarded Christianity as essentially the culmination of philosophy, to which the way must be found through liberal culture. Without a liberal education the Christian could live a life of faith and obedience but could not attain an intellectual understanding of the mysteries of the Faith. On the other hand, Tertullian (160-240) was very suspicious of Pagan culture; though he granted the necessity of employing it as a means of education, yet he did so with regret, and would forbid Christians to teach it in the public schools, where some recognition of Paganism would be implied. The general practice of the Christians, however, did not conform to Tertullian’s exhortations. Indeed, many of the cultivated Christians of the 3rd and 4th centuries were little more than nominal adherents to the Faith, and the intercourse between Christian and Pagan was often close and friendly. The general attitude of Christians towards the traditional education is evidenced by the protest raised against the edict of Julian, which forbade them to teach in the public schools. The ultimate outcome seems to be fairly expressed in the writings of St Augustine (354-430) and St Jerome (346-420), who held that literary and rhetorical culture is good so long as it is kept subservient to the Christian life.

In another way Greek philosophy exercised an abiding influence over the culture of future ages. The early centuries of Christianity felt the need of formulating the Faith to preserve it from disintegration into a mass of fluid opinions, and such formulation was of necessity made under the influence of the philosophy in which the early Fathers had been trained-that Neo-platonism which was the last effort of Paganism to attain a conception of life and of God. In the West, this formulation had to be translated into Latin, for Greek was no longer generally understood in Italy, and thus the juristic trend of Roman thought also became a factor in the exposition of Christian doctrine. This formulation of the Faith was one of the chief legacies the transition centuries passed on to the Middle Ages.

Had classical culture been less formal than it was during the early centuries of Christianity, the innate antagonism of the Pagan and Christian views of life and character must have been so apparent that the education which prepared for the one could not have been accepted by the other. It was only because rhetorical culture was so emphatically intellectual, and so little, if at all, moral in its aims, that its inherent opposition to the Christian conception of character was not obvious. That its antagonistic influence was not inoperative is shown by the not infrequent perversions of cultured Christians to Paganism. But generally the opposition was so obscured that the ethical writings of St Ambrose (340-397) are largely Stoic in conception and reasoning. Yet the Pagan ideal of life, especially as it had been developed in the individualistic ethics which had prevailed for more than six centuries, was antithetical in essence to that of the Christian Church. The former was essentially an ethics of self-reliance and self-control showing itself in moderatiOn and proportion in all expressions of life. An essential feature in such a character was high-mindedness and a self-respect which was of the nature of pride. On the contrary, Christian teaching exalted humility as one of the highest virtues, and regarded pride and self-confidence as the deadliest of sins. It recognized no doctrine of limitation; what was to be condemned could not be abhorred too violently, nor could what was good be too strongly desired or too ardently sought. The highest state attainable by man was absorption in loving ecstasy in the mystic contemplation of God. The practical attempt to realize this gave rise to monasticism, with its minutely regulated life expressing unlimited obedience and the renunciation of private will at every moment. The monastic life was regarded as the nearest approach to the ideal which a Christian could make on earth. Naturally, as this conception gathered strength in generations nurtured in it, the value of classical culture became less and less apparent, and by the time of St Gregory the Great (d. 604) the use of classical literature except as means of an education having quite another end than classical culture was discouraged.

Of course, during these centuries, the gradual subjugation of the western empire by the barbarians had been powerfully operative in the obscuring of culture. Most of the public schools disappeared, and generally the light of learning was kept burning only in monasteries, and in barbarian times, more and more faintly as they became less isolated units exposed to attack by ruthless foes or living in continual dread of such attack. Though the barbarians absorbed the old culture in various degrees of imperfection, yet the four centuries following the death of St Augustine were plunged in intellectual darkness, relieved by transitory gleams of light in Britain and by a more enduring flame in Ireland. The utmost that could be done was to preserve to some extent the heritage of the past. This, indeed, was essentially the work of men like Boethius, Cassiodorus, Isidore and Bede.

During these same centuries another process had been advancing with accelerating steps. This was the modification of the Latin language. In the early centuries of Christianity, literary Latin was already very different from colloquial Latin, especially in the provinces; and, as has been said, the literary output of the last age of Paganism was marked by sterility of thought and meretricious redundancy of expression. On the other hand, the writings of Christianity show a real living force seeking to find appropriate expression in new forms. Thus, with Christian writers, slavish imitation of the past gradually gave way to the evolution of a new and living Latin, which showed itself more and more regardless of classical models. To express the new ideas to which Christianity gave birth, fresh words were coined, or borrowed from colloquial speech or from the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures. This Christian Latin was a real living instrument of expression, which conformed itself in its structure much more closely to the mode of thought and expression of actual life than did the artificial imitation of antiquity in which the literary productions of Paganism were clothed. It is the Latin in which St Jerome wrote the Vulgate. But with the obscuring of culture during the barbarian invasions this current Latin became more and more oblivious of even such elements of form as grammatical inflexions and concords.

Medieval Education

It was to the reformation of this corrupt Latin by a return to classical models, and to the more general spread of culture, especially among clergy and nobles, that the Carolingian revival addressed itself. The movement was essentially practical and conservative. Alcuin (735-804), who was Charlemagne’s educational adviser and chief executive officer in scholastic matters, was probably the best scholar of his time, and himself loved the classical writings with which he was acquainted; but the text-books he wrote were but imperfect summaries of existing compendia, and the intellectual condition of his pupils forbade a very generous literary diet even had he thought it desirable, of which there is some doubt. The most valuable outcome of the movement was the establishment of the palace school, and of bishops’ schools and monastic schools throughout the empire. Of these the latter were the most important, and each of the chief monasteries had from the time of Charlemagne an external school for pupils not proposing to enter the order as well as an internal school for novices. Thus, the educational system north of the Alps was pre-eminently ecclesiastical in its organization and profoundly religious in its aims. For two centuries the new intellectual life was obscured by the troubled times which followed the death of Charlemagne, but the learning which the Carolingian revival had restored was preserved here and there in cathedral and monastic schools, and the sequence of well-educated ecclesiastics was never altogether interrupted.

The scope of that learning was comprised within the seven liberal arts and philosophy, on the secular side, together with some dogmatic instruction in the doctrines of the medieval Church, the early fathers, and the Scriptures. Theology was as yet not organized into a philosophical system: that was the great work the Middle Ages had to perform. The seven liberal arts (divided into the Trivium -- grammar, dialectic, rhetoric; and the more advanced Quadrivium -- geometry, arithmetic, music, astronomy) were a legacy from old Roman education through the transition centuries. They appear in the Disciplinaruin libri IX. of Varro in the 2nd century B.C., where are added to them the more utilitarian arts of medicine and architecture. But they reached the Middle Ages chiefly through the summaries of writers in the transition centuries, of which the best known were the De nuptiis Philologiae et Mercurii of the Neo-platonist Martianus Capella, who wrote probably early in the 5th century; the De artibus ac disciplinis liberalium litterarum of the Christian Cassiodorus (468-562); and the Etymologiarum libri XX. of St Isidore of Seville (570-636).

The scope of the arts was wider than their names would suggest in modern times. Under grammar was included the study of the content and form of literature; and in practice the teaching varied from a liberal literary culture to a dry and perfunctory study of just enough grammar to give some facility in the use of Latin. Dialectic was mainly formal logic. Rhetoric covered the study of law, as well as composition in prose and verse. Geometry was rather what is now understood by geography and natural history, together with the medicinal properties of plants. Arithmetic, with the cumbrous Roman notation, included little more than the simplest practical calculations required in ordinary life and the computation of the calendar. Music embraced the rules of the plain-song of the Church, some theory of sound, and the connexion of harmony and numbers. Astronomy dealt with the courses of the heavenly bodies, and was seldom kept free from astrology. In philosophy the current text-books were the consolatione philosophiae of Boethius (470-524), an eclectic summary of pagan ethics from the standpoint of the Christian view of life, and the same writer’s adapted translations of the Categories and inter pretatione of Aristotle and of Porphyry’s Introduction to the Categories.

It is evident that though such a scheme of studies might in practice, during ages of intellectual stagnation and general ignorance, be arid in the extreme, it was capable in time of revival of giving scope to the widest extension of culture. It was, indeed, at once comprehensive and unified in conception, and well adapted to educate for the perfectly definite and clear view of life which the Church set before men.

In the 11th century Europe had settled down, after centuries of war and invasion, into a condition of comparative political stability, ecclesiastical discipline, and social tranquility: the barbarians had been converted, and, as in revival, the case of the Normans, had pressed to the forefront of civilization; civic life had developed in the fortified towns of Italy, raised as defences against the pressure of Saracen and Hungarian invasions. Soon, communication with the East by trade and in the Crusades, and with the highly cultivated Moors in Spain, further stimulated the new burst of intellectual life. Arabic renderings of some of the works of Aristotle and commentaries on them were translated into Latin and exercised a profound influence on the trend of culture. A new translation of Aristotle’s Metaphysics appeared in 1167, and by the beginning of the 13th century all his physical, metaphysical and ethical treatises were available, and during the next half century the translations from Arabic versions were superseded by renderings direct from the original Greek. As expositions of the real doctrines of Aristotle the translations from the Arabic left much to be desired. Renan calls the medieval edition of the Commentaries of AverroŽs “a Latin translation of a Hebrew translation of a commentary made upon an Arabic translation of a Syriac translation of a Greek text.” The study of such works often led to the enunciation of doctrines held heretical by the theologians, and it was only when the real Aristotle was known that it was found possible to bring the Peripatetic philosophy into the service of theology.

There were thus two broad stages in the educational revival commonly known as scholasticism. In the first the controversies were essentially metaphysical, and centred round the question of the nature of universals; the orthodox theological party generally supporting realism, or the doctrine that the universal is the true reality, of which particulars and individuals are only appearances; while the opposite doctrine of nominalism -- that universals are “mere sounds” and particulars the only true existences -- showed a continual disposition to lapse into heresies on the most fundamental doctrines of the Church. The second stage was essentially constructive; the opposition of philosophy to theology was negated, and philosophy gave a systematic form to theology itself. The most characteristic figure of the former period was Abelard (1079-1142), of the latter St Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274). The former knew little of Aristotle beyond the translations and adaptations of Boethius, but he was essentially a dialectician who applied his logic to investigating the fundamental doctrine of the Church and bringing everything to the bar of reason. This innate rationalism appeared to bring theology under the sway of philosophy, and led to frequent condemnations of his doctrines as heretical. With St Thomas, on the other hand, the essential dogmas of Christianity must be unquestioned. In his Summa theologiae he presents all the doctrines of the Church systematized in a mould derived from the Aristotelian philosophy.

It is evident, then, that during the period of the scholastic revival, men’s interests were specially occupied with questions concerning the spiritual and the unseen, and that the great instrument of thought was syllogistic logic, by which consequences were deduced from premises received as unquestionably true. There was a general acceptance of the authority of the Church in matters of belief and conduct, and of that of Aristotle, as approved by the Church, in all that related to knowledge of this world.

Before the rediscovery of Aristotle exerted such a general influence on the form of education, there was a real revival of classical literary culture at Chartres and a few other schools, and John of Salisbury (d. 1182) in his Met ale gicus advocated literature as an instrument of education, and lamented the barrenness of a training confined to the subtleties of formal logic. But the recrudescence of Aristotle accelerated the movement in favour of dialectic, though at the same time it furnished topics on which Logic could be exercised which only a bare materialism can esteem unimportant. The weaknesses of the general educational system which grew up within scholasticism were that haste to begin dialectic led to an undue curtailment of previous liberal culture, and that exclusive attention to philosophical and theological questions caused a neglect of the study of the physical world and a disregard of the critical functions of the intellect. Doubtless there were exceptions, of which perhaps the most striking is the work in physical science done at Oxford by Roger Bacon (1214-1294). But Albertus Magnus (1193-1280), the master of St Thomas, was also a student of nature and an authority for his day on both the natural and the physical sciences. And the work of Grosseteste (d. 1253), as chancellor of the university of Oxford, shows that care for a liberal literary culture was by no means unknown. Always there were such examples. But too often boys hastened to enter upon dialectic and philosophy as soon as they had acquired sufficient smattering of colloquial Latin to engage in the disputes of the schools. A deterioration of Latin was the unavoidable consequence of such premature specialization. The seven liberal arts were often not pursued in their entirety, and students remained satisfied with desiccated compendia of accepted opinions. Thus the encyclopaedias of general information which were in general use during the Middle Ages show little or no advance in positive knowledge upon the treatment of similar subjects in Isidore of Seville.

The services of scholasticism to the cause of education, however, cannot well be overestimated, and the content of the scholastic studies was in fundamental harmony with the intellectual interests of the time. Above all other benefits owed by future ages to scholasticism is the foundation of the universities of western Europe. The intellectual activity of the 11th century led everywhere to a great increase in the number of scholars attending the monastic and cathedral schools. Round famous teachers, such as Abelard, gathered crowds of students from every country. In the 12th century the need for organizing such bodies of teachers and students was imperative, and thus the earlier universities arose in Italy, France and England, not by deliberate foundation of secular or ecclesiastical ruler, but as spontaneous manifestations of the characteristic medieval impulse to organize into institutions. Afterwards, charters conferring powers and privileges were sought from both Church and state, but these only confirmed the self governing character the universities had borne from the first. Each of the early universities was a specialized school of higher study: Salerno was a school of medicine; Bologna was the centre of that revival of Roman law which wrought so profound an effect upon the legal systems of France and Germany towards the close of the medieval period. But the greatest of medieval universities was that of Paris, emphatically the home of philosophy and theology, which was the model upon which many other universities, including Oxford and Cambridge, were organized.

The German universities were of later origin, the earliest being Prague (1348) and Vienna (1365). They indicate the more recognized position the movement had attained; for nearly all were founded by the civic authority, and then obtained the recognition of the Church and charters from the emperor. The concentration of higher instruction in universities was not antagonistic to the medieval conception of the Church as the teacher of mankind. University life was modelled on that of the cloister, though the monastic ideal could not be fully realized, and the scholars not infrequently exhibited considerable licence in life. This was inevitable with the very large numbers of the scholars and the great variations of age among them. Moreover students, and to a less extent teachers, passed from university to university, so that the universities of medieval Europe formed a free confederacy of learning in close relation to the Church but untrammelled by state control. Nevertheless, they were less definitely ecclesiastical than the cathedral seminaries which they largely supplanted, and the introduction of studies derived from the Greeks through the Arabians led to an increased freedom of thought, at first within authorized limits, but prepared, when occasion served, to transcend those limits.

The scheme of instruction was arranged on the assumption that special studies should he based on a wide general culture. Thus of the four faculties into which university teaching was organized, that of arts, with its degrees of Baccalaureat and Magister, was regarded as propaedeutic to those of theology, law and medicine. It often included, indeed, quite young boys, for the distinction between grammar school and university was not clearly drawn. Attention was concentrated on those subjects which treat of man and his relations to his fellow-men and to God, and no attempt was made to extend the bounds of knowledge. The aim was to pass on a body of acquired knowledge regarded as embracing all that was possible of attainment, and the authority of Aristotle in physics as well as in philosophy, and of Galen and Hippocrates in medicine was absolute. The methods of instruction -- by lecture, or commentary on received texts; and by disputation, in which the scholars acquired dexterity in the use of the knowledge they had absorbed -- were in harmony with this conception, and were undoubtedly thoroughly well suited to the requirements of an age in which the ideal of human thought was not discovery but order, and in which knowledge was regarded as a set of established propositions, the work of reason being to harmonize these propositions in subordination to the authoritative doctrines of the Church.

Such an extension of the means of higher education as was given by the universities was naturally accompanied by a corresponding increase in schools of lower rank. Not only were there grammar schools at cathedral and collegiate churches, but many others were founded in connexion with chantries, and by some of the many gilds into which medieval middle-class life organized itself. The Dominican and Franciscan friars were enthusiastic promoters of learning both in universities and in schools, and in the Netherlands the Brethren of the Common Life, founded by Gerard Groote and approved by Eugenius IV in 1431, regarded school teaching as one of their main functions, and the promotion of learning by the multiplication of manuscripts as another. The curriculum was represented broadly by the trivium. The greatest attention was paid to grammar, which included very various amounts of reading of classical and Christian authors, the most commonly included being Virgil, parts of Ovid and Cicero, and Boethius. The textbooks in grammar were the elementary catechism on the eight parts of speech by Donatus, a Roman of the 4th century, said to have been the tutor of St Jerome, and the more advanced treatise of Priscian, a schoolmaster of Constantinople about A.D. 500, which remained the standard text-book for over a thousand years. In rhetoric Cicero’s De oratore was read, and dialectic was practised, as in the universities, by means of disputations.

In addition to the grammar schools were writing and song schools of an elementary type, in which instruction was usually in the vernacular. Girls were taught in women’s monasteries and in the home, and those of the upper classes at least very generally learned to read, write and keep accounts, as well as fine needlework, household duties and management, and such elementary surgery and medicine as served in cases of slight daily accidents and illnesses. Even those boys and girls who did not receive formal scholastic instruction were instructed orally by the parish priests in the doctrines and duties of the Faith; while the pictures and statues with which the churches were adorned aided the direct teaching of sermons and catechizing in giving a general knowledge of Bible history and of the legends of the saints.

No doubt, in times of spiritual and intellectual lethargy, the practice fell short of the theory; but on the whole it may be concluded that in medieval times the provision for higher instruction was adequate to the demand, and that, relatively to the culture of the time, the mass of the people were by no means sunk in brutish ignorance. Indeed, especially when the paucity of books before the invention of printing is borne in mind, the number of people who could read the vernacular, as evidenced by the demand for books in the vulgar tongue as soon as printing made them available, is clear proof that the latter part of the Middle Ages was by no means a time of general illiteracy.

Feudalism, the other characteristic aspect of medieval society, had also its system of education, expressing its own view of life, and preparing for the adequate performance of its duties. This was the training in chivalry given to pages and squires in the halls and castles of the great. Hallam has well said: “There are, if I may so say, three powerful spirits which have from time to time moved over the face of the waters, and given a predominant impulse to the moral sentiments and energies of mankind. These are the spirits of liberty, of religion, and of honour. It was the principal business of chivalry to animate and cherish the last of these.” And this was not in opposition to the spirit of religion which animated the scholastic education which went on side by side with it. Throughout chivalry was sanctified by the offices of the Church. The education of chivalry aimed at fitting the noble youth to be a worthy knight, a just and wise master, and a prudent manager of an estate. Much was acquired by daily experience of a knightly household, but in addition the page received direct instruction in reading and writing; courtly amusements, such as chess and playing the lute, singing and making verses; the rules and usages of courtesy; and the knightly conception of duty. As a squire he practised more assiduously the knightly exercises of war and peace, and in the management of large or small bodies of men be attained the capacity of command.

Education During the Renaissance and Reformation

With the unification of existing knowledge and the systematization of theology the constructive work of scholasticism was done. At the same time the growth of national feeling was slowly but surely undermining feudalism. Moreover, deep resentment was accumulating throughout western Europe against the practical abuses which had become prevalent in the Church, and especially in the court of Rome and in the prince-bishoprics of Germany. In short, Europe was out-growing medieval institutions, which appeared more and more as empty forms unable to satisfy the needs and longings of the human soul. In such conditions, the customary and traditional education of school and university tended to lose touch more and more completely with the new aspirations and views of life which were everywhere gathering adherents among the keenest and most active intellects. Had a new cultural movement not begun, the education of Europe threatened to become as arid as the rhetorical education of the last centuries of the Roman empire had been. From this it was saved by the renaissance of classical studies which began in the 14th century.

Italy, by its greater wealth and its more intimate commerce with the eastern empire, was the seed-plot of this new tree of knowledge. Ever since the 11th century the cities of northern Italy had been in advance of Europe beyond the Alps both in culture and in material progress. The old classical spirit and the feeling of Roman citizenship had never quite died out, and the Divina Commedia of Dante (1265-1321) furnishes evidence that the poet of the scholastic philosophical theology was also a keen student and lover of the old Latin poets. But the greatest impulse to the revived study of the classics was given by Petrarch (1304-1374) and Boccaccio (1313-1375). Generally throughout western Europe the 14th century, though full of war and political unrest, was a time of considerable intellectual activity, shown in the increase of schools and universities, as well as in the literary and artistic revival in Italy, in the social and theological movement in England and Bohemia associated with the names of Wycliffe and Huss, and in the more or less perfect substitution of Roman law everywhere except in England for the law of custom which had hitherto prevailed.

But it was the literary movement which most affected education, and indeed the whole life of Europe. A decisive step was taken when Manuel Chrysoloras was invited to teach Greek in the university of Florence in 1397. The enthusiasm for classical culture, to which Petrarch had given so great an impetus, gathered force and extended over the whole of Italy, though, of course, felt only by a select few and leaving the mass of the people little, if at all, affected. From Italy it spread gradually to countries north of the Alps. In the old writers men found full expression of that new spirit of self-conscious freedom which was vaguely striving for expression throughout the whole of Christendom. In the free political atmosphere of the Italian communes, with their wealthy and leisured merchant class, that spirit could flourish much more readily than in the feudalized Europe across the Alps. Moreover, the antique spirit was in direct line of ancestry with that of medieval Italy. Thus, for a couple of centuries, Italy stood in the van of European culture.

The stages of the movement cannot be traced here: suffice it to say it showed itself especially in an enthusiastic search for manuscripts, followed by their multiplication and wider distribution; in an intense devotion to literary form; in a revival of classic taste in architecture; in a wonderful development of painting and sculpture from symbolism of spiritual qualities towards naturalism and romanticism; in a return to Platonism in philosophy; in a contempt, often unreasoning and wanting a foundation in knowledge, for the scholastic Aristotelian philosophy itself, and not simply for the trivialities into which its actual exercise had so commonly degenerated. The invention of printing necessarily gave the movement both a stronger and a wider influence than it could otherwise have attained. And in its search after knowledge it was in full harmony with the spirit of adventure which marked the age, and by the discovery of the New World wrought so profound a change in the relative importance and prosperity of the countries of western Europe.

It is the spirit of the movement which is of interest to the student of education. And that spirit was essentially one of opposition to authority and of assertion of individual influence and liberty, which worked itself out in various forms among peoples of different temperaments. In Italy, Renaissance form was literary and artistic, and the full development of the Renaissance spirit was seen in a practical Paganism which substituted the attractions of art for the claims of religion and morality, and eventuated in deep and widespread immorality and a contemptuous tolerance of the outward observances of religion without faith in the doctrines they symbolized. The movement became an attempt to reconstitute the past intellectual life of Italy, and, as such, was foredoomed to sterility as soon as the work of rediscovery was completed; for the revived forms were not inspired with the vital spirit which had once made them realities, and consequently men’s minds once again were occupied with mere verbal subtleties. The really valuable service of the Italian humanists to Europe was the restoration to man of the heritage of knowledge which he had allowed to slip from his grasp, and leading the way to a freer intellectual atmosphere. In Germany the spirit manifested itself in a rebellion against the doctrinal system of the Church as the only effectual means of attaining reform of ecclesiastical abuses. The Protestant reformation of Luther was the real German outcome of the Renaissance. In no other country of Europe did the movement take so distinctive a form.

It was, then, not merely the revival of interest in classical studies which so profoundly affected the life and education of western Europe. It was rather that in those literatures men found a response to intellectual and moral cravings which had been blindly gathering force for generations, and which found themselves formulated and objectified in the writings which set forth the Pagan view of life with its assumption of the essential worth and self-reliance of the individual and its frank delight in all the pleasures of existence. It was, in short, in proportion as men not only found delight in Pagan literature but returned in essence to the Pagan view of individual worth and the supremacy of the human intellect, that the Church realized the danger to herself which lurked in the new movement.

At first the revival of interest in the classical literatures did not show any antagonism to Catholic faith and practice, and its warmest supporters were faithful sons of the Church. The view of the relation of classical literature to Christianity adopted by the great humanist schoolmaster Vittorino da Feltre (1378-1446) was broadly that of the early Fathers, and in his school at Mantua he showed that culture was not inconsistent with loyalty to the Church or with purity of life. With him classical literature was not the end and sum of education, but was a means of implanting ideas, of developing taste, and of acquiring knowledge, all as helps and ornaments of a Christian life. Though Pagan literature was the means of education, the Pagan spirit had not supplanted that of Christianity. The school at Mantua may, indeed, be said to have exhibited in practice a Christianized application of the doctrines of Quintilian and Plutarch.

So was it in the other countries of Christendom. In the Netherlands the Brethren of the Common Life introduced humanistic studies into their schools side by side with definite religious teaching and observances and their work was always dominated by the Christian spirit. The earlier German humanists, such as Nicholas de Cusa, Hegius, Agricola and Wimpheling, adopted the same attitude, and Erasmus himself, bitterly as he attacked the practical abuses of the Church, remained in communion with it, and aimed at harmonizing classical culture with the Christian life. In England the same love of culture combined with devotion to the Church was seen in Selling, prior of Christ Church, Canterbury, the first real English humanist, in Grocyn, More, Fisher, Colet and many others whose enthusiasm for culture was as undoubted as was their loyalty to Catholicism. It seemed, then, at first as if the greatest educational effect of the classical revival would be the deepening of literary culture, and the substitution of real inquiry for dialectic subtleties in the courses of schools and universities, without any break with established religious teaching. It is true that the majority of schools were but little affected, and many of the universities had given but a half-hearted welcome to humanistic studies when the religious revolt in Germany under the leadership of Luther threw the whole of Europe into two hostile camps. But even the conservative university of Paris -- the headquarters of scholastic philosophical theology -- had permitted the teaching of Greek as early as 1458, and both Oxford and Cambridge had welcomed the new studies. That the influence of the new movement for classical study was gradually permeating the schools is shown not only by the practice of the Brethren of the Common Life but by the curriculum laid down by the statutes of the schools refounded by Wolsey at Ipswich and by Colet at St Paul’s.

The immediate effect of the religious controversies of the 16th century on education was emphatically, if unintentionally, disastrous. The secularization of ecclesiastical property too often absorbed the endowments of the schools, so that, both in Germany and in England, the majority of grammar schools either disappeared or continued in a starved existence with diminished funds; the doctrine of salvation by faith alone and the futility of good works dried up the source from which such endowments had flowed; the violent fulminations of the German reformers against the universities as the homes of the hated scholastic theology and philosophy found an echo in minds fired with the Renaissance enthusiasm for poetry and oratory, and correlative distaste for the more severe and abstract speculations of logic and philosophy, which expressed itself in abstention from those seats of learning; the preoccupation of men’s minds with theological speculations and quarrels led those few who did resort to the universities to neglect their appointed studies and to devote their energies to interminable wrangling over the points in dispute.

This decadence in culture was attended by an outbreak of licence and immorality, especially among the young, which called forth violent denunciations from Luther and many of his followers in Germany, and from Latimer and other reformers in England. In some respects these results were only transitory. Humanism and Protestantism, which had so far diverged that Erasmus (1467-1536) had declared that where Lutheranism flourished learning decayed, were brought together again by Melanchthon (1497-1560) under whose influence universities were founded or reorganized and schools re-established in Protestant German states; and in England the reign of Elizabeth saw many new educational foundations. But this restoration of the means of education was only partial, and the doctrine of the worthlessness of carnal knowledge, which led the Barebones Parliament to propose the suppression of the English universities, was held by many fervent Protestants both in England and in Germany all through the 17th century.

Moreover, the schools established a tradition of curriculum and instruction which ignored the new directions of men’s thoughts and the new view of knowledge as something to be enlarged, and not merely a deposit to be handed down from generation to generation. The later humanist theories of education, which the schools continued to follow generally for over two centuries, and in many cases for another hundred years after that, were drawn mainly from Erasmus and Melanchthon, who found in the classical languages and literatures, and especially in Latin, the only essential instruments of education. General knowledge of natural facts might be desirable to the cultured man as ornaments to his rhetoric, but it was to be sought in the writings of antiquity. Even so revolutionary a thinker on education as Rabelais (1495-1553) with all his demand for an encyclopaedic curriculum, held the writings of the ancients as authoritative on natural phenomena. Melanchthon, whose conception of instruction was much narrower, exercised enormous influence in the moulding of Protestant universities and secondary schools, both directly and through such disciples as Trotzendorf and Neander, but especially through his friend Sturm (1507-1589), whose Latin gymnasium at Strassburg became the model which the grammar schools of Protestant Europe strove to imitate. In this school nearly the whole of the energies of the boys was given to acquiring a mastery of the Latin language after the model of Cicero. Sturm, indeed, did not go to the extreme length of the Ciceronians, opposed and satirized by Erasmus, who would allow no word or construction which could not be found in the extant writings of their master, but a like spirit dominated him.

In Catholic countries the Church retained control of education. The practical reformation of abuses by the Council of Trent, and the energy and skill of the Society of Jesus, founded by St Ignatius Loyola, in 1534, brought back most of south Germany into the fold of the Church. Everywhere Catholic universities were mainly taught by Jesuit fathers; and under their influence, scholasticism, purged from the excretions which had degraded it, was restored, and continued to satisfy the longings of minds which felt the need of an authoritative harmonizing of faith and knowledge. Everywhere the society established schools, which, by their success in teaching and the mildness of their discipline, attracted thousands of pupils who came even from Protestant homes. Their curriculum was purely classical, but it was elaborated with much skill, and the methods of instruction and discipline were made the subject of much thought and of long-continued experiment. In the methods thus determined all Jesuit fathers were trained, so that the teachers in Jesuit schools attained a degree of skill in their art which was too generally wanting elsewhere.

So long as Latin remained the language of learning, and new fields of knowledge were not appropriated, the schools remained in harmony with the culture of their time, though, as Mulcaster (1530-161f) pointed out, such a training early was not of value to the majority of boys. For them he urged an elementary education in the vernacular; but neither in this nor in his advocacy of the training of teachers was his advice followed.

In the 17th century the dislocation between the Latin schools and the needs of life began to be accentuated as Latin gradually ceased to be the language of learning; and, as a consequence, the numbers attending the schools decreased, and the mass of the people sunk continual]y lower in ignorance. In vain Hoole urged the establishment of a universal system of elementary schools giving instruction in the vernacular, Petty put forth his plan for elementary trade schools, and Cowley proposed the establishment of a college devoted to research. Ideas of reform were in the air, but the main current of scholastic practice flowed on unaffected by them. Some attention was, indeed, paid to the conservative reforms advocated by the Port Royalists, of which the most important was the inclusion of the vernacular as a branch of instruction, but the cry for more fundamental changes based on the philosophy of Bacon was unheeded. Of these, none was a more active propagandist than Comenius (1571-1635). Unfortunately his Great Didactic, in which he set forth his general principles, attracted little attention and won less adherence, though his school books, in which he attempted with very little success to apply his principles, were widely used in schools. But these were little more than bald summaries of real and supposed facts, stated in Latin and the vernacular in parallel columns. In content they differed from such medieval summaries of knowledge as the well-known work of Bartholomew Anglicus, which had been widely used since the i3th century, chiefly by their greater baldness and aridity of statement.

In the universities, too, the 16th and 17th centuries saw a continuous decadence. The 16th century was not ripe for real intellectual freedom; and Protestantism, having based its revolt on the right of private judgment, soon produced a number of conflicting theological systems, vying with each other in rigidity and narrowness, which, as Paulsen says, “nearly stifled the intellectual life of the German people.” Further, the idea of national autonomy, which exercised so great an effect on the politics of the time, included the universal adherence of the citizens to the religion of the state. Hence, till the end of the 17th century the universities of Protestant Europe were regarded mainly as instruments for securing adhesion to the national theological system on the part of future clergy and officials, and the state interfered more and more with their organization and work.

Theology occupied the most important place in the higher studies pursued, which for the rest differed little in content and less in spirit from those of preceding centuries, except that more attention was paid to the study of classical literature. Even that decayed into formal linguistics as the Renaissance enthusiasm for poetry and oratory died out, and interest in logical and philosophical questions, fostered by the dominance of dogmatic controversial theology, again became dominant. In Paris, on the other hand, the faculty of theology had decayed through the withdrawal of those preparing for the priesthood into episcopal seminaries, and the higher studies pursued were mainly law and medicine. Thus, generally, the universities were less and less fulfilling the function of providing a general liberal education. Another change, due to the same causes and making for the same results, was the isolation of universities, often directly fostered by the state governments, which for the universal interchange of medieval thought substituted a narrow provincial culture and outlook. It is no wonder that numbers everywhere decayed and that complaints as to the habits of the students were loud and frequent.

At the close of the 17th century, then, universities as well as schools had reached a very low level of efficiency and were held in little respect by the cultured. Indeed, from the middle of the century, the main current of higher intellectual life had drifted away from the orthodox classes, centres of learning. The formation of the Berlin Academy in Germany and of the Royal Society in England, and the refusal of Leibnitz to accept a chair in any German university, were signs of the times. In France, and later in Germany, the education of the noble youth was increasingly carried on apart from the schools, and was really an outgrowth from the education of chivalry. In the 16th century Castiglione and Montaigne had advocated a training directly adapted to prepare for polite life, and Elyot wrote on similar lines. But the most important movement in this direction was the formation of the courtly academies which flourished in France in the 17th century, and were soon imitated in the Ritterakademien of Germany. In these schools of the nobility French was more honoured than classics, and the other subjects were chosen as directly adapted to prepare for the life of a noble at the court. Milton in his Tract advocated the foundation of such academies in England, though he proposed a curriculum far more extensive than had ever been found possible. More and more, too, foreign travel had, from the middle of the 16th century, been looked upon as a better mode of finishing the education of a gentleman than a course at a university.

Modern Education

The later years of the 17th century saw a revival of university life in Cambridge, through the work of Newton and the increasing attention paid to mathematics and the physical revival of university sciences, though the number of students continued very small. In Germany, also, a new era opened with the foundation of the universities of Halle (1694) and Gottingen (1737), which from the first discarded the old conception that the function of a university is to pass on knowledge already complete, and so opened the door of the German universities to the new culture and philosophy. It was soon seen that students could thus be attracted, and the influence spread to the other German universities, which by the end of the 18th century had regained their position as homes of the highest German thought.

At Halle, too, was set the example by Francke of providing for the education of the children of the poor, and to his disciple Hecker Germany owes the first Realschulen. Simultaneous movements for the education of the poor were made by St Jean-Baptiste de la Salle and the Brothers of the Christian Schools in France, and by the Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge in England. But the total results were not great; the mass of the people in every European country remained without schooling throughout the 18th century.

The intellectual movements of that century were, indeed, essentially aristocratic. Voltaire and the Encyclopaedists aimed at the enlightenment of the select few, and Rousseau declared baldly that the poor need no education. That these movements influenced education profoundly is undoubted. The individualistic and abstract thought: rationalism of Voltaire, derived from the sensationist philosophy of Locke through the more thorough-going Condillac, and finding its logical outcome in the materialistic atheism of La Mettrie and the refined selfishness of Rochefoucault, infected the more cultured classes. In Lord Chesterfield’s Letters to his son is shown its educational outcome -- a veneer of superficial culture and artificial politeness covering, but not hiding, the most cold-blooded selfishness. Against this fashionable artificiality, as well as against the obvious social and political abuses of the time, Rousseau’s call for a return to nature was a needed protest.

Rousseauism, however, was not merely a transitory revolt against a conventionality of life that had become unbearable; it was emphatically the voicing of a view of life and of education which has profoundly influenced Europe ever since. In that Rousseau (1712-1778) attempted to look at life as a whole he was on truer ground than were the intellectualists of the “Enlightenment”; but in that he found the essence of life in the gratification of the desires and impulses of the moment, he enunciated a doctrine which banished high principle and strenuous effort from life and consequently from education. In the Emile is presented a purely fantastic scheme of education based on a psychology of development so crude as to be absolutely false, and producing a young man utterly unable to guide his own life or to control his emotions and impulses. Rousseauism is, indeed, in its essence the application to education of the doctrines of naturalism -- the philosophy which regards human life as a mere continuation of physical process, and consequently as determined wholly by environment. So Rousseau would abolish all moral training and leave the child to the reactions of the physical world upon his actions.

Against this position the educational teaching of Kant (1724- 1804), influenced though he was by the Emile, is essentially a protest. The most necessary element in education, according to Kant, is constraint, which by the formation of habit prepares the young to receive as principles of conduct the laws at first imposed upon them from without. And the supreme guide of life is the law of duty which is always more or less opposed to the promptings of inclination. Kant exaggerates the dualism: Rousseau would abolish it by ignoring the more important of the two antitheses.

The French Revolution -- the natural outcome of the teachings of Voltaire and of Rousseau -- was the second stage in the movement of which the Reformation was the first. It was essentially the assertion of the natural rights of man, and, as a logical sequence, of the right of every child to be properly trained for life. The reaction due to the excesses of the revolutionists no doubt delayed the acknowledgment for a time, but its gradual recognition is emphatically the characteristic mark of the educational history of the 19th century.

Preached and practised by Pestalozzi (1746-1827) in Switzerland, the general education of the poor was first made a reality by Prussia after the crushing defeat of Jena. In France and England. education remained for nearly three-quarters of the century the work of the Church and other voluntary agencies, though aided by the state. Finally a state system of schools has been more or less fully set up in every state of western Europe and in America, and subjected to more or less state regulation and control. Equally marked has been the growing care for the scholastic education of girls as well as boys, though only in America are the two regarded as practically identical in form and content.

Thus the 19th century saw the final working out of the idea that the state should be substituted for the Church as the official agent of education, an idea which had its roots in the Renaissance conception of the right of man to direct his life apart from theological determinations. The more direct outcome of the same idea is apparent in the absolute liberty with which the presuppositions of knowledge are questioned, and the maxim of Descartes -- to prove everything by the reason and to accept nothing which fails to stand the test -- is acted upon. No greater contrast is possible than that between the medieval student and the modern searcher after truth.

The influence of the same spirit has wrought an equally momentous change in the methods of instruction. The impetus given by the exaggerated doctrine of Rousseau to the Methods view that the nature of the child should determine the means of education, led to more thorough-going attempts than had hitherto been made to base educational method on a knowledge of child psychology. Pestalozzi and Froebel (1782-1852), by their insistence on the need of educating a child through his own activity, and by their widespread influence, made the new view of method an actuality. The influence of Rousseau has, thus, passed into modern educational practice in a form that, in its essence, is true, though in practice it has shown itself apt to run into the same excess of emphasis on impulse and feeling which vitiated the teaching of Rousseau himself. The influence of Herbart (1776-1841) has tended to counteract this. The essence of Herbartianism is that mental life consists of presentations, or reactions of the mind on the environment, and that will springs from the circle of thought thus developed. The emphasis is therefore placed on intellect and instruction while in Froebelianism it is placed on spontaneous activity and on the arrangement of the environment. Each exaggerates the function of the one factor in concrete experience which it makes the centre of interest, and each is tinged with the individualistic conception of life which characterized the 18th and early 19th century.

The most marked change in the outward aspect of education has been the modification of the curriculum of school and university by the introduction of various branches of natural science. Conjointly with this has been much increase of specialization, and that not only in the university but in the school. There is no longer a universally recognized circle of knowledge constituting a liberal education preparatory to specialist studies, as there was in the Middle Ages. Nor is there general agreement as to what such educational institutions as schools and universities should attempt to do, or even as to the end that should be sought by education as a whole. Nor can agreement on such points be expected while men differ widely as to the meaning and purpose of life. The work of the organization of the material means of education has largely been accomplished by the civilized world: that of determining the true theory and practice of the educative process itself is still incomplete. To that, both discussion of the philosophy of life and of the relative values in life, of various kinds of experience and experiment in the light of the conclusions reached, are needed. The problem will never be absolutely solved, for that would imply an absolutely best education irrespective of conditions, but its practical solution will be reached when a true adjustment is made between the process of education and the life ior which that education is intended to be a preparation.

Return to History of Education Links

Return to Historic and Modern Application of the Trivium

Online Edition of the 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica

History of Education Links Failure of Modern Educationism

Home ◊◊◊ Contents ◊◊◊ About ◊◊◊ New ◊◊◊ Curriculum ◊◊◊ FAQ

CE Links ◊◊ CE Loop ◊◊ Nothing New Press ◊◊ History ◊◊ ETS ◊◊ AiG