Monday, October 19, 2009

A Very Short History of Christian Education, 4/5

Reformation & Post-Reformation:

The major Reformation churches and leaders vigorously promoted informal and formal schooling, preaching both parental and communal responsibility. Luther preached on the duty of sending children to school; Calvin erected the famous Geneva Academy; the Scot, Swiss, Dutch, French, Polish and Hungarian churches ordered, created and some even operated schools for children. Catechizing, both by the parents, teachers and ministers, was encouraged, practiced and enforced.

The Dutch synod of 1618 endorsed a three-fold approach to theological instruction: parents, schools and churches. Each was to instruct the children in the catechism; each was to reinforce the Doctrines of Grace. Such integration between the family, church and school was already in practice in other Reformed communities, but this Synod laid it out in a most explicit manner.

The rise of English Puritan influence paralleled the English "educational revolution." The existing records demonstrate that about 800 new schools were added within less than two-hundred years in England alone (1480-1660). Yet, "the diversity of forms of elementary training—and its chronic lack of endowment—led Puritans as well as their contemporaries to rely heavily on the household for instruction in literacy at the same time as they encouraged the finding of schools..." (Morgan, 175). The availability of primary schools in England during the 1600s may have been great, and "every boy, even in the remotest part of the country, could find a place of education in his own neighborhood competent at any rate to fit him to enter college" (Morison, qtd. 60).

A typical English school included a master and an assistant (usher), each teaching a class of students in the same room. The larger Academies, such as at Geneva and Strasbourg, included seven to eight classes, each lasting a year, with students being tested for advancement between the lower and upper classes.

Charity schools in England--especially for the poor--mushroomed in the 1600s. In the 1670s there were around 350 charity schools and 51 grammar schools in the small country of Wales. In 1724 over 1,000 charity schools existed in England (this number does not include the normal schools). Devon, England’s fourth largest county in the eighteenth-century, contained at least 180 schools. Similar schools multiplied in the German states. The Scottish General Assembly asked the presbyteries to collect monies for charity schools in 1709.

The father of modern education was the Reformed leader and Moravian bishop, Johann Comenius. England invited him for educational advice; Sweden commissioned him for an educational book; Transylvania petitioned him to reform their schools; and Harvard asked him to be their president. He wrote the first picture book for children and worked tirelessly teaching, creating schools and school programs (graded-level schools, curriculum, etc.).

Again, literacy rates are hard to come by because of the scarcity of records (the same is true with the number of schools). However, it appears that literacy was accomplished in about two to three years, between the ages of nine and twelve (Morgan, 175). Literacy was around 50% in London and lower in the surrounding countryside. But then, the main point of creating schools was to combat such illiteracy--not for humanistic reasons, but for godly reasons: reading the Bible. Schooling, at home and abroad, co-existed peacefully during this time.

Summary of References and Suggested Readings:
History of Education, Cubberley
Godly Learning: Puritan Attitudes Toward Reason, Learning, and Education, Morgan
The Intellectual Life of Colonial New England, Morison
The Great Didactic, Comenius

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