The Library of Original Sources, Vol 6


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In the second volume of this series we illustrated the education of the Spartans, and the contributions to the science by Plato and Aristotle. In all of this the child was subordinated to the state. The Spartans made him a Stoic: Plato and Aristotle would have made him a philosopher. Rome, on the other hand, as we saw in the essays of Quintilian and Plutarch (volume III.), trained her youth to be orators. They were either born statesmen, generals, jurisconsults, or got their skill in these fields by actual practice; in eloquence alone were they given any formal training.

The education of the Middle Ages was either that of scholasticism in the monasteries or of knighthood in the tournament. The two forms were in strong contrast. The young knight was brought up to serve his mistress, the monk was taught to think woman a temptation from the devil. The knight learned to ride, joust, swim, shoot with the bow, hawk, play chess, and make verses in Italian or Provenal. The monk learned grammar, logic, rhetoric, Latin, mathematics, philosophy, astrology, and perhaps alchemy and music. The knight’s training was mostly physical. The monk’s was intellectual, but narrow, bigoted, harsh, and formal.

With the Renaissance came a new interest in the classical authors studied in the original. Universities sprung up all over Europe, and the higher classes, who had been intellectually the most ignorant during the Middle Ages, became the most enlightened. The Reformation did much to bring this education within the reach of the middle orders.

John Sturm (1507–1589) of Strasburg introduced the study of pure Ciceronian Latin into the schools in place of the spoken Latin of the scholastics. The influence of this act has been enormous both for good and bad. He was an embodiment of true scholarship, but his work led to euphemism and artificial refinements.

Montaigne (1533–1592) gives a good picture of the education of his time. He makes a strong plea for the fostering and development of the originality of the child. His essay on education is given in volume V.

Wolfgang Ratke (1571–?) did a great deal to systematize teaching. His principal rules are these: 1. Begin everything with prayer. 2. Do all things in order, following nature. 3. Do one thing at a time. 4. Emphasize by frequent repetition. 5. Teach first in the mother tongue. 6. Proceed from the mother tongue to the other languages. 7. Do not beat children (as did the monastic schools) to make them learn. Give time for play. Do not teach more than two hours at a time. Teach pupils to love their masters. Let them learn the substance, not the words. 8. Let there be uniformity in teaching and text books. 9. Teach things first, then the reasons for them. Give examples before rules. Teach languages from the authors themselves. 10. Teach inductively and by experiment.

As a counterpoise to the new development of Protestant schools, the Jesuits established schools all over Catholic Europe. Lower education they made include grammar and syntax. Then followed rhetoric and the languages. The pupils were taught not only to read and write but to speak classical Latin. The higher studies began with Aristotle’s science and followed with his philosophy. The climax of the course was a four years’ training in theology.

The educator most influential on the future developments of the science was probably, however, Comenius. His great principle was to follow nature closely, for example, in learning a dead language to learn words and things together as we do the mother tongue. His outline of the principles of education is given below.


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Chicago: "Education," The Library of Original Sources, Vol 6 in The Library of Original Sources, ed. Oliver J. Thatcher (Milwaukee, Wisconsin: University Research Extension Co., 1907), 24–25. Original Sources, accessed February 4, 2023,

MLA: . "Education." The Library of Original Sources, Vol 6, in The Library of Original Sources, edited by Oliver J. Thatcher, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, University Research Extension Co., 1907, pp. 24–25. Original Sources. 4 Feb. 2023.

Harvard: , 'Education' in The Library of Original Sources, Vol 6. cited in 1907, The Library of Original Sources, ed. , University Research Extension Co., Milwaukee, Wisconsin, pp.24–25. Original Sources, retrieved 4 February 2023, from