The Citizen and the Subject
An Educational Problem in Historical Perspective
by Robbie McClintock
Draft of an encyclopedia article on the history of education. Unpublished.
Length: 7,500 words
The history of education recounts how people in the past have acquired their culture and character. In the history of education special attention is paid to the cultural content that people acquired, the means through which they acquired it, and significant historical results that may have been associated with the strengths and weaknesses of their educations.
Education in early civilizations was acquired primarily through oral traditions. Even in civilizations that possessed systems of writing, such systems were at first used for highly specialized purposes, for keeping accounts and inventories, and the acquisition of writing skills was an education confined to a minority of scribes. For most people, the cultural content acquired in education was stored, not in writing, but in an unwritten poetry, a sung, oral poetry that was continually recreated through repeated performances of it. The story teller, more precisely, the singer of tales, was the popular educator, and through repeated attendance to the tales he sang, people acquired their ideals of character, their etiquette and ethic, their general information, their common culture.
Oral traditions can be preserved as such only as they are remastered by successive generations, and as the mastery of oral traditions has almost universally disappeared, most of the history of this type of education has been irrevocably lost. Yet, in the periods of transition, when civilizations in which people acquired their education through oral traditions began to become ones in which people got their education increasingly through writing, many of the highest achievements of the oral traditions were transcribed into written texts, and a portion of these transcribed texts have survived the ravages of time as some of the most important, early documents of our literary heritages. Examples are the early Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh, written down around 2000 B.C., the Hindu Vedic Hymns, developed over many centuries through oral traditions and committed to writing between 1000 and 500 B.C., the Book of Psalms and the Book of Proverbs, probably much more as well, from the Bible, and the Iliad and Odyssey, the great fruits of a long oral tradition in ancient Greece, transcribed around 600 B.C.
Homer was the educator of the Greeks, so the Greeks themselves held. The classical Greeks, like modern scholars, were not quite sure who Homer was, a name for one or more bards who brought the Greek tradition of oral epic poetry to a very high level of artistry one or two centuries before its fruits were written down. As literacy began to spread among the Greeks around 600 B.C., the poems were transcribed, possibly through the initiative of the Athenian tyrant Pisistratus (605?-527 B.C.). How oral poetry functioned in the history of education can be best understood from study of Homer's Iliad, and Odyssey, and from the poems of Hesiod (8th? cent. B.C.), particularly Works and Days, which were somewhat more recent in origin than Homer's. Oral poetry, before widespread reliance on writing, was not memorized word for word. Rather it was preserved through continual recomposition in performance. The poet-singer had a technique, a command of a basic rhythmic, tonal line through which he composed his performance. He had also to know the basic story, the scenario of the Trojan War, of Odysseus's wanderings. He needed finally a repertory of formulae, fixed phrases with various rhythmic qualities—"of white arms," "wine-dark seas," and on and on—which he could use without stopping to think about it to make each line fit the proper rhythm. Giving himself to the muse, the poet-singer then composed, on the spot, his rendition of the tale, making it elaborate or compressed as the occasion warranted. Such skills were the literacy of a pre-literate civilization. To some degree, all learned to sing from repeatedly listening to others singing. Poetic speech was the pervasive form of communication; everyone had heard renditions of the great poems many times and the interaction of the poet-performer and a knowledgeable audience functioned to preserve the basic content of the tradition and to provoke increasing artistry in its presentation: the "right" story had to be told but it was especially appreciated when it was told especially well.
Greece is made of mountain chains that rise above the level of the sea, the many islands, large and small, are isolated peaks piercing above the surface, the Peloponnesus, a large mass of mountains, the chains running north and south. The Greeks were able to make the most of this rugged terrain by organizing themselves into relatively small, autonomous groups, the city-states, of which Sparta and Athens are remembered as the most significant. The classical Greeks were aware of a basic contrast between Sparta and Athens, the former oligarchical and conservative, the latter democratic and innovative. But in the history of education, the more significant contrast was not the one between Sparta and Athens, but that between Greek and "barbarian," the non-Greeks, particularly the Persians. The Hellenic Greeks viewed themselves as citizens, and as citizens, they saw that they were quite different from non-Greek peoples who were content to be subjects, born but to serve a divine kingship. The education of a subject was a relatively simple matter, one of providing him with whatever training he needed to perform the functions appointed to him through the hierarchical structure, be it that of farmer, merchant, warrior, priest, counselor or king. The education of the citizen, in contrast, was more complicated, for the citizen was a free man, a participant in the polis, not a subject of the polis. Not all people in the Greek city-states were citizens, and among the citizens there were gradations of wealth and power, yet except when one man ruled as a tyrant, the citizens were all autonomous participants in the life of the city, and the fate of the city was dependant on their participation. The education of such citizens had therefore to go beyond training for the performance of a fixed function. In Book IX of the Iliad, Homer defined the goal of this education in describing the aims of Achilles' education—to become a "speaker of words and a doer of deeds" in a community of peers.
Faced with this task of educating citizens, the Greeks "discovered" educational theory roughly between 600 and 400 B.C. During this period the Greek population expanded considerably; the economic power of the leading city-states grew greatly; literacy began to become a skill many possessed. Between 500 and 460 B.C. a confederation of Greeks led by Athens and Sparta halted what had seemed to be the inexorable Westward expansion of the Persian Empire; and then between about 430 and 400 B.C the Greeks debilitated their power in the Peloponnesian War, a costly inter-Greek struggle between a league of land powers, led by Sparta, and a league of sea powers, led by Athens, which the latter lost. During the whole period, the internal and external challenges facing Greek citizens grew ever more complicated. The Spartans, in response, withdrew and held ever more tightly to a narrow, collectivist, militaristic education. In other cities, especially Athens, people began to look for new and better ways to educate the citizen to become a speaker of words and doer of deeds.
In Athens, opinions about education split into three groups, which might best be labeled the conservative, the opportunistic, and the reflective. The conservatives stressed what was, by 450 B.C., perceived as the "old education": elementary training in gymnastics (deeds) and music (words), including learning the rudiments of writing and reading, followed by a process of political apprenticeship in which a youth would accompany an older citizen as the latter went about his business. The opportunists, soon known as sophists, recognized that many perceived the old education to be inadequate, given the complexity of the times, and instead of political apprenticeship, they offered, for fees, a specialized training in the arts of persuasion. The reflective educators, such as Socrates (469-399 B.C.), soon to be known as philosophers, agreed with the opportunists that the old education was deficient, but suggested that the new professional teachers, in teaching the arts of persuasion, were teaching skills that did not necessarily help people learn to think clearly, the proper quality to be aimed at in a time of complex change. By 335 B.C the Athenians had a range of institutions offering advanced training: several schools of rhetoric, the most influential of which was that founded by Isocrates (436-338 B.C.); and two schools of philosophy, the Academy founded by Plato (427?-347 B.C.) and the Lyceum founded by Aristotle (384-322 B.C.).
It was too late, however. The autonomy of the Greek city-states had ended with the victory of Philip II (382-336 B.C.) of Macedonia over the Greeks in 338 B.C. and the citizens of the city-states had become subjects in a larger empire. This process of incorporating the city-states into an empire was greatly extended by Alexander the Great (356-323 B.C.), whose conquest of the Persian Empire, Egypt, and beyond ended the Hellenic and began the Hellenistic era in education. Alexander, who had been tutored in his youth by Aristotle, spread Greek education and culture to vast new subject populations, but in doing so he transformed that education and culture, adapting it to a population of subjects, including the now subject Greeks, over all of whom he now ruled as semi-divine king. Alexander's empire soon broke into contending parts, but the autonomy of the Greek city-states was never again to be recovered. A sophistic, rhetorical, literary education, derived from the Hellenic Greeks, became the norm in the cities of the eastern Mediterranean during the Hellenistic era, but it was an education inspired less by the ideal of the citizen than by the needs of the state functionary. The accumulation and dissemination of organized knowledge was greatly expanded through institutions such as the Library at Alexandria (founded circa 300 B.C.), but the uses to which knowledge could be put became far more circumscribed.
This shift in the educational problem from that of educating the citizen to that of educating the subject was repeated in the western Mediterranean in Roman experience. Early Roman education, like Hellenic Greek education, aimed to educate the citizen, the participant in a shared political enterprise. Unlike the Greeks, who defined themselves by reference to a literary heritage, the Romans defined themselves primarily through a legal tradition. Roman customary law, originally transmitted through oral tradition, was written down in the Twelve Tables about 450 B.C. Traditional Roman education consisted of memorizing these, of developing respect for the ancestors of one's family and the gods of the city, of learning, through military and political apprenticeship, to participate in Roman life. All this aimed at pietas and gravitas, the characteristic virtues of the Roman citizen.
From about 350 B.C. until the 2nd century A.D., Roman power steadily expanded into the greatest empire ever created in the West. Early in this expansion, Romans came in close contact with Hellenistic Greek culture. Educational opinion divided into a group that wanted to exclude Greek influences in education, of which Cato the Elder (234-149 B.C.) is the best remembered, and a group that wanted to admit Greek influence. By the 1st century B.C. Hellenistic influence was widely accepted, and the sons of elite families often learned Greek from earliest childhood on through the steady accompaniment of a Greek tutor. To study rhetoric or philosophy, the young Roman, like the philosopher-statesman Cicero (106-43 B.C.), would go to the Greek centers of learning, preeminently Athens.
As Roman power expanded, great burdens were placed on its republican institutions of government, originally institutions of a small city-state. From 150 B.C. on, the strains became too great for the Republic to survive; civil war became chronic; and finally Julius Caesar (102?-44 B.C.) and then his nephew Auguste Caesar (63 B.C.-14 A.D.) concentrated effective power in the hands of a single person who, from Augustus on, ruled as Emperor. As had happened in Greece, with this political change, the pedagogical problem ceased to be one of preparing the citizen to participate autonomously in political life and became one of preparing the subject to perform his function as a dependant of the state. Elementary instruction did not change greatly, but education beyond that became more formalized: rhetorical schools were already common in the eastern, Greek-speaking part of the Empire, and they became common throughout the western, Latin-speaking parts, with a formalized, Latin rhetoric being developed by Quintilian (circa 35-95 A.D.). Vergil (70-19 B.C.), probably under instructions from Augustus, created the great poem Aeneid, giving the Latin-speaking Roman a literary epic that could serve as the basis of education as Homer's poems had served the Greek speaker in Hellenistic education. Roman legal education also became formal and systematic, suitable less for acquainting the citizen with the law than for training professional lawyers. The whole pedagogical program came to function primarily to train up an administrative elite.
Roman religion had been a flexible, eclectic religion, in the republican era a collection of city and family cults. As Rome had expanded, so had its religion: the Romans made room in their growing hegemony for conquered peoples by incorporating conquered gods into the Roman pantheon. This technique did not work well when the Romans, in 63 B.C., gained control of the Jews of Palestine. The Jews had already had a long, complicated history. Large Jewish populations were by then dispersed throughout the Mediterranean world, but by and large during the Hellenistic era, these Jews had been highly Hellenized, and their education followed the Hellenistic model. The Temple in Jerusalem was still, however, the center of Jewish religious concern and diverse groups in Palestine wanted to refound an independent Jewish state so that they could live more in accord with the law of the Torah and the covenant between God and the Jews. These aspirations led to serious conflict with Roman policy, which resulted in 66-73 A.D. in a bloody war of resistance, in which the Romans destroyed the Temple. During the next sixty years there was continued tension and in 132-135 another war of resistance was fought, ending in a suppression of Jewish political aspirations that would last well over the next fifteen hundred years. Judaism was left without its traditional institutions and rabbinic teachers were the one group remaining within it that could give Judaism cohesion and continuity. Oral traditions of Biblical interpretation, Midrash, and related collections of rabbinic law, Mishna, were systematized, and with these as a basis, an extensive system of Talmudic education developed, on which the continuity of Judaism through the long Diaspora depended.
During the time of tension, as Palestine came under Roman control, there were diverse messianic groups, some of which began to look to Jesus (circa 6 B.C.-30 A.D.) as the Messiah. Jesus was a Jew at a time when Judaism encompassed a very broad range of religious outlooks. The Judaism that was to emerge from this period as normative Judaism, however, was first and foremost a religion of a people, to whom a law, a way of life, had been given by God, as revealed in the Torah. Jesus, in contrast, was less concerned with the legal and moral resources the religion gave to a people, than with the ethical and spiritual resources it gave to the person. This difference of emphasis led before long to a break between the followers of Jesus and Judaism. As Judaism came to depend for continuity increasingly on rabbinic leadership, the observance of the Torah and Talmudic law, the early Christians, particularly under the leadership of Paul (died circa 65 A.D.) turned increasingly antinomian, believing that the advent of Christ had superseded the covenant of the Torah. This rejection of Old Testament law eventually allowed the Christians to achieve a thorough accommodation with the Roman system.
Roman polytheistic religion was primarily what later political theorists would call a civil religion, a system of cult and ritual whose prime effect was to provide popular emotional support for the civil customs and laws of a people. It offered people few profound, spiritual answers to their innermost doubts and longings. The Romans habitually dealt with all religions as if they were civil religions, trying to incorporate each new god, each new cult, each new ritual into their civil religion, the better to support their ever more complex customs and laws. Judaism, too, was a civil religion, but with a strong spiritual side, and the Christianity that developed out of Judaism in effect jettisoned most of Judaic civil religion and further accentuated the strong spiritual elements in it. This quality accounts for the original tension between Rome and Christianity: Roman rulers did not know how to deal with a religion of faith although Roman peoples felt a strong longing for the sort of spiritual support such a religion offered. Christianity, founded on a thorough monotheism, could not be incorporated into the Roman pantheon as yet another cult among other cults; worse, conversion to Christianity meant rejection of all the gods and cults in that pantheon. Slowly, following the injunction to render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and unto God what is God's, a thorough accommodation emerged as Christianity same to adopt the civil customs and law of Rome and Rome same to adopt the spiritual convictions of Christianity. In this process, Christians found that they did not need to develop a distinctively Christian system of civil, intellectual education, but could incorporate, with minor adjustments, the classical, Greco-Roman system, complementing that with an educational mission for the Church of preparing the person's soul in this life for salvation in the next life. St. Augustine (354-430) most fully exemplified this educational synthesis.
Greco-Roman education had been closely associated with towns and cities, its institutions were urban landmarks all around the Mediterranean. This remained true as Rome converted to Christianity: communications constraints remained such that formal study worked best only where people lived in concentrations. During the 3rd through 5th centuries, as Rome declined, the decline was most serious in the towns and cities, especially in the Western parts of the Empire. The causes of this decline were exceedingly complicated, a mixture of climatic, demographic, economic, poli-tical, and cultural developments that led to the severe weakening of Rome. As centers of population contracted from within and were overrun from without, the scope and quality of educational work suffered. The decline and fall of Rome, in the West, at least, constituted a profound reorganization of life, a shifting from an urban to a rural base of power. The educational effects of this shift were significant: for a time the feudal court and the monastery became prominent educational centers.
Christian monasteries had begun first in desert areas of Egypt and spread to the West late in the Roman era. This movement was given shape by St. Benedict of Nursia (circa 480-547). Around 540 he wrote a Rule, a set of guiding regulations, for the monastery he founded at Monte Cassino, between Rome and Naples, and Christian monasticism has since largely followed the principles he enunciated. Monasteries were self-contained communities, carefully regulated to nurture the spiritual life. Their purpose was not educational in any narrow sense, but they had two important effects as educative institutions. First, as urban centers declined, and with them the traditional educational institutions, monasteries provided concentrations of educated monks in an increasingly rural civilization, and these monks took on the function of educating their prospective members, often young boys, so that they could partake in the study of scripture. Through the early middle ages monastic schools thus became a significant complement to the weakened urban schools inherited from classical times. Second, edifying occupation was an important component of monastic discipline, and one such occupation usually pursued in monasteries was the copying of manuscripts, usually religious texts, but sometimes literary and philosophic texts, and through this process of copying and storing texts, much of the classical heritage was preserved and transmitted to posterity.
With the decline of the Roman system, power became thoroughly decentralized through Western Europe and feudal courts became centers of initiative and action. Whether the court of an Emperor such as Charlemagne (742?-814), or of a middling manorial baron, military and legal functions were there performed, which created a demand for skill and knowledge. The court thus became, among other things, an educative center. Through a combination of apprenticeship by the youthful attendant of the knight, and instruction of varying amounts, depending on the cultural level of the court, the requisite skills and knowledge were passed from generation to generation. Charlemagne was particularly concerned that the level of competence of his court be improved and had the Irish monk, Alcuin (735?-804), set up a school in his capitol, Aachen, where a fairly high level of scholarship was attained.
Around 1000, demographic conditions in Europe began a steady improvement, which would last until roughly 1350, to abruptly end with the spread of Bubonic plague. Population increased, new lands came into cultivation, trade quickened, towns revived. The effects on education of this expansion were significant. Consider first popular education. As always, the basic way in which people acquired the skills by which they lived was by doing, through apprenticeship, very broadly understood: son helped his father, daughter her mother, and over time each thus acquired the skills of the parent and that is what it meant to be born into a particular station in life. As towns grew, specialized crafts developed within them, and the loose apprenticeship of child to parent that always exists in the absence of anything else developed into a more formalized system of craft apprenticeship, regulated by contracts, through which the young could progress from apprentice to journeyman to master and guild member. Such formal apprenticeship became a widespread form of popular education especially in towns. It was not, however, the only significant form of popular education.
Medieval life was dominated by the Church, not as a distant power ruling from afar, but as a pervasive element of daily experience. We miss the most unique feature of medieval education unless we reflect on the Church itself as educator. At the center of every town was the cathedral, dotting the countryside numerous chapels and shrines. These were not simply buildings, not simply enclosed spaces; the structures themselves were means of popular education. Cathedrals, chapels, shrines were all laden with iconographic images from which the knowing could read off to the unknowing a wealth of religious, moral, political, and economic ideas and information. Church structures were the popular encyclopedias of the middle ages, built as integral features of the landscape of daily life, ever open to be read as one went about ones daily business and even more as one participated in liturgical ceremony or embarked upon a pilgrimage. Vast resources were devoted to building these religious structures, and if we understand them as means of popular education, we recognize that the commitment to popular education was probably stronger during the middle ages than at any time in Western history prior to the modern era.
Recognizing that the medieval landscape was rich with educative resources for the average person, we can put the medieval school in its proper place, namely that of a significant but highly specialized, restricted educational institution. Popular culture was relatively sophisticated, but its sophistication was imagistic rather than literate. Certain elites, certain specialized functions, required people who possessed literate skills, and an increasing number of schools came into being to impart these skills to those who needed them. At the time that monastic schools started, so too had Episcopal schools, usually attached to a bishop's cathedral. These were designed to train prospective members of the clergy, and the recipients of training in a cathedral school became known as clercs, a group the range of whose members are reasonably well defined by the term's two English derivatives, clerics and clerks. With the demographic improvement of medieval life, the number and quality of cathedral schools improved. These schools gave an elementary training in Latin and a start on scriptures, and to a more advanced group, they gave an introduction to the seven liberal arts—grammar, rhetoric, and logic, known as the trivium, and geometry, arithmetic, music, and astronomy, known as the Quadrivium. By the end of the twelfth century advanced students and teachers began to band together in major cities to form guilds (universitas) through which they pursued a more thorough study of the liberal arts and the specialized study of theology, law, or medicine. As these universitas won privileges from the ecclesiastical and temporal authorities, the European university came into being.
By 1300 medieval life had reached its zenith, and by 1350 a severe decline set in. Recurrent plagues and epidemics, combined with recurrently bad harvests, caused a significant population decline. These times of trouble were noteworthy, nevertheless, for certain new departures taken within them. Medieval life had been highly religious, not in the sense that people ignored the domains of experience that we now generally consider secular, but in the sense that religious concerns pervaded the whole gamut of experience. Among many other things, this pervasive Christianity had led to a chronic devaluation of everything in the classical heritage that did not at least appear to presage the Christian consciousness. To the medieval Christian consciousness, the person was clearly a subject, a subject of God, a subject of the faith and its embodiment in the world, the Church, and a subject of the temporal power, which king or emperor exercised ultimately by divine right. To such a consciousness, the parts of the classical heritage, both Roman and Greek, pertaining to the citizen seemed of little worth and were almost entirely forgotten.
During the 14th century in Italy a renaissance began, a rebirth of interest in the classical heritage, which profoundly affected literature, art, architecture, politics, and education. St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) had prepared the way by incorporating a full knowledge of the work of Aristotle into the medieval synthesis. Dante (1265-1321), Petrarch (1304-1374), Boccaccio (1313-1375), all Florentines, were early geniuses of renaissance literature, who articulated their classical interests without fundamentally challenging medieval assumptions. Petrarch, in particular, however, promoted an education that imparted a command of Latin far more competent, judging by the standard of ancient authors, than was attained through medieval education. During the 15th century, Italian scholars recovered texts of numerous Latin authors, and at the turn of the 16th century, Greek literature and thought became far more accessible than it had been for nearly a millennium. This recovery of a heritage was put to use by educators within a significant political situation. being Milan, Venice, Florence, the Papal holdings centered on Rome, and Naples. Government of these diverse political entities was generally one or another variation of two types, princely tyrannies or free republics, Milan and Naples being the most powerful examples of the tyrannies and Venice and Florence of the republics. Under strong princes, the tyrannies were expansive, seeking to unify Italy under a single hegemony; the republics generally resisted unification, seeking to preserve their autonomy. Thus there was a conscious tension between proponents of the two forms; in the tyrannies the people were subjects and in the republics they were citizens, and within both the newly recovered classical heritage was put to educational use. Common to both was a commitment by scholars to advance humanistic learning, but the educational uses to be made of that learning differed. Within many of the tyrannies, large and small, court schools developed where the children of the prince and those he favored received a humane, rounded education designed to help them become effective managers of the prince's interests. The ideas behind this educational tradition were given fullest expression by Baldesar Castiglione (1478-1529) in The Book of the Courtier, which exerted extensive influence throughout Europe, especially in England during the sixteenth century. To the educational practices of the Italian tyrant courts, much in the idea of civility can be traced.
Educational concerns within the republican states, particularly Florence, were quite different. Like the ancient city-states, Florence was most of the time a city governed by its citizens, and Florentines believed that their common fate depended on their personal participation in political and economic life. Florentine power and prosperity depended on the resources generated by its merchants and bankers, and the humanist influence early linked' with an interest in an education that would prepare one for economic activity, an education well described in Leon Battista Alberti's (1404-1472) Of the Family. Another educational concern took shape in Florence, however, one that was to be even more important than the concern for the education of the commercial man of the world. Florentine humanists became great students of history; they became well aware that citizens of free cities had found it very hard in ancient times to maintain their freedom: over and over again unwise measures with respect either to internal or external issues had lead to the loss of freedom. Florentines knew further that they were very vulnerable to a similar loss of their freedom: repeatedly they were under challenge by expansive tyrannies from without and repeatedly they succumbed from within to rule by the partial tyranny of the Medici family. From Leonardo Bruni (1370-1444) through Machiavelli (1469-1527) numerous Florentine humanists argued that free participation as a citizen in public life was the condition through which people best developed themselves, but that to preserve that way of life people needed to develop in themselves "civic virtue," a complex of skills and qualities that enabled people to govern themselves effectively. The fullest statement of the importance of civic virtue in self-governing republics was Machiavelli's Discourses on the First Ten Books of Livy, which was written at precisely the same time A Castiglione's Book of the Courtier (1513-1518), and is filled with ideas about educational measures—not instructional strategies but educative actions—that free people can take to maintain their civic virtue.
During the 15th century northern Europe lagged behind Italy in thought and educational reform. In Mainz, a town in Southwestern Germany, around 1450, however, an epoch-making technical development occurred, namely the successful use of movable, metal type for printing. The invention of printing had inestimable consequences for education. Books could now be reproduced accurately en masse and the first of the numerous growth industries that have driven the development of Western industrialism was born. By 1500 the invention was in use in most of the population centers of Europe and the conventions of the printed book were generally established. The written word could now, as never before, become the basis of culture, and the uses of literacy the central problem of education. Printing was the technical precondition, making possible, although not directly causing, three fundamental educational developments that unfolded in the years up to roughly 1900. First, after printing, literacy in each person's mother tongue could become the basis of education, both popular education and advanced education. Second, after printing, formal instructional practices could be codified and revised and institution-alized in schools on a scale never before imagined. Third, after printing, scholarship and science, both natural and social, could undergo a sustained, systematic development to the point where they created a new curriculum, one that was neither religious nor classical.
First, the vernacular. Printing was a commercial, economic development that paid off as it served ever-growing markets. Transportation costs for books were relatively high prior to the great improvements in transport in the 19th century, especially when books had to be moved long distances. It paid for a printer to distribute his books within a fairly close radius from his press. Within such a radius there was a much larger potential market for books in the vernacular than for those in Latin. To this economic reason for cultivating vernacular writing, a powerful religious reason was soon added. The Protestant Reformation began as a popular movement in the early 1500's and one of its essential features was its location of spiritual authority in the Bible, not the Church. The medieval, imagistic, religious curriculum embodied in the ubiquitous cathedrals suddenly became obsolete; the Bible and other religious writings could be translated into the language of the people; the people could learn to read, to reflect, to listen to a learned clergy preaching in the popular tongue. The impetus was ineluctable: resistance came only from staunch Catholics and the scholarly elites. For the latter, nobless oblige,: slowly they found that they could just as well master several living languages as one dead one. For the Church, live and learn: repeatedly it found that to hold its members more and more concessions had to be made to the vernacular.
Second, the school. As a rule, before 1500 formal schooling had been extremely chaotic. Good teachers were hard to find and instructional aids were hard to come by. The would-be student's first problem was to get a copy of Donate, the elementary Latin grammar most often used. Unless rich he could not buy one; hence he had to find a text that could be copied, and not yet knowing how to read what he was copying, he made neither an efficient nor accurate copyist. Sometimes it took a youth years of vagrant wandering before he could get a real start, mastering Donate and finding a competent teacher of the elementary liberal arts, a saga like that Thomas Platter (1499-1582) recounted in his fascinating Autobiography. As Platter also showed, the spread of printing had a tremendous effect in bringing order to this chaos. With printing, experience could influence education, not as a constraint, but as a leaven. Horn books, grammars, texts became inexpensive enough for most all to purchase. Manuals on how to organize a beginner's study, on what should be in the curriculum, on techniques that had proved helpful in in-struction became accessible to any would-be teacher. Not all used them, but many did, and the effectiveness of schooling surged under the reforming organizational work of men like the Lutheran, Melanchthon (1497-1560), and the Catholic, St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556). The latter founded the Jesuit order, which spread schools throughout the Catholic areas and soon produced the Ratio Studiorum, which provided system for Catholic instruction for several hundred years. The Protestants excelled in writing texts for elementary and secondary instruction; those of Johannes Sturm (1507-1589) and Johann Amos Comenius (1592-1670) were particularly influential.
Third, the curriculum. Scientists need to use certain resources for communication if their work is to develop in a systematic, progressive way. Science and scholarship are shared, social endeavors, the work of many minds in close collaboration, not the work of a few isolated geniuses. For science to advance, each scientists needs to be able to present his data and theories in a reliable form to those who share his interest in a problem. Printing gave scholars and scientists such a form of communication. Erasmus (1466?-1536) quickly showed what benefits printed texts could bring to literary and theological study by carefully collating and emending the best manuscripts of numerous ancient works, religious and classical, and by making them available for study to a much wider public than ever before had access to them. In natural science, the assertion of a heliocentric theory of the universe by Copernicus (1473-1543), and its successive improvement by Galileo (1564-1642) and Kepler (1571-1630), was greatly facilitated by each being able to publish for other scientists to consider both the theory and the data on which it was based. In all probability, modern scientists have been no more empirical, no more inclined to observe the world, than their pre-modern "predecessors; rather they have enjoyed means for communicating the results of their observations to others that pre-modern scientists wholly lacked. Further, printing not only facilitated the generation of scientific findings, it furthered facilitated the dissemination of those findings through texts and encyclopedias, and over time a whole new conception of the curriculum built up, one that held it to consist primarily of knowledge. The ancient classical curriculum had been in essence a set of skills, those skills held to be effective tools of learning, thinking, expressing oneself. The medieval religious curriculum for formal instruction took over this classical idea and adapted it to theological, rather than its original political, purposes. Thus in ancient and medieval instruction, the curriculum had been primarily a means for acquiring skills. As modern science and scholarship built up a comprehensive body of knowledge and theory, the student's task became one of acquiring as much of this content as he or she could, rather than submitting to a discipline in the traditional skills of learning. The Encyclopédie, the 28 large volumes of which were published between 1751 and 1772 under the direction of Denis Diderot (1713-1784), gave an early, effective summation of this new curriculum, which has continued to expand ever since.
Over time, thus, printing made possible a shift in formal education to reliance on vernacular languages, to greater use of formal schools which could be reformed through better organization and method, and to a curriculum based on systematic scholarship, one designed to impart knowledge more than skill. Two other developments remain to be considered, one socio-economic and the other political.
Around 1650 Europe began to emerge from the demographic decline that had started in the late middle ages: life-expectancies improved; population increased markedly; standards of living rose; transportation and communication capacities grew—all of which had deep effects on education. The most profound of these socio-economic effects was the emergence of a new conception of childhood and youth. Under pre-modern conditions life-expectancy for children was very low; such conditions encouraged adults to maintain emotional distance from their children and to postpone educational investment in them until they reached a fairly mature age. As a result, childhood was not well understood as a unique stage in life and people frequently did not start their formal education until well past puberty. During the 18th century, life-expectancy for children began to improve markedly; people became more involved with children and began to pay more attention to children as children, not as minuscule adults. People developed a much clearer awareness that children matured according to a natural process of development; they recognized childhood as the proper, natural time for education; and they began to adapt the sequence of education to the stages of development through which all children passed. Emile by Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) exerted great influence in spreading a developmental understanding of childhood and youth. Rousseau's reflections on education, however, were not particularly applicable to schooling. Through the 18th century, the practice of grouping children in schools according to age, a practice we take for granted, began to spread, although the curriculum and methods of instruction were still little influenced by a developmental understanding of children. In Switzerland, Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi (1746-1827), and in Germany, Friedrich Froebel (1782-1852), pioneered in adapting school practices to these new ideas.
Throughout the modern period the ideas about the relation of politics and education that had taken form in the Italian renaissance remained significant. In the 16th and 17th centuries the courtier ideals of education, which had grown up in the Italian tyrant states where power was hierarchic and people were subjects, had wide influence, for these suited the needs and interests of those building up the centralized monarchic states then dominant. Writers such as Erasmus (1466?-1536) and Sir Thomas Elyot (1490-1546) somewhat generalized the courtier ideal into a more comprehensive ideal of civility, which provided norms by which people could function effectively, for themselves and for the whole, within a set of hierarchic relationships. During this time the Florentine concern for civic virtue in relation to education had little overt influence except on millennial Protestant political movements such as the Calvinists in Geneva and the Cromwellians in England. By the 18th century, however, demographic expansion had begun to put great pressure on the traditional political and social hierarchies and members of the growing middle classes particularly began to think of themselves more as citizens than as subjects. Influential writers such as Montesquieu (1689-1755) and Rousseau (1712-1778), as well as a host of political pamphleteers in England and America, made civic virtue a central theme. Through the American and French revolutions, the concept of citizen was made fundamental to modern democratic political organization, and the education of the citizen quickly came to be seen as a crucial function of any polity based on the sovereignty of the citizens. The Marquise de Condorcet (1743-1794) and Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) were among the most significant of the many writers on the role of education in a self-governing community.
Traditionally, political theorists had held that self-governing communities by nature had to be small, ideally comprising a population living in close proximity, all sharing a keen sense of common interest. The democratic governments brought into being in the era of revolutions, like England, France, and the United States, contrary to traditional theory were large states comprising many millions who had widely divergent interests. In order to generate sufficient sense of shared purpose, the leaders of these new democratic societies needed a powerful, uniting idea, which was found, after some experiment with federalism, in the idea of nationality. In part, this use of nationality as a means of uniting democratic citizen bodies in the 19th century was possible because education and culture had already come to be based upon the great national, vernacular languages. All the same, the difficulties of making popular government work in large societies greatly strengthened the impetus towards universalizing popular schooling as a means of spreading the national culture and ideals among all members of the citizenry. Compulsory elementary schooling, then secondary schooling, became standard; secular, public interests became preeminent over familial and religious interests with respect to educational issues. Numerous figures were prominent during the past 150 years in creating mass school systems; representative among them are the American Horace Mann (1796-1859) and the Frenchman Victor Cousin (1792-1867). A great quickening in the speed of transportation and communication, the growth of the cheap, popular press, and more recently the revolution of mass communications complemented mass popular schooling with a dynamic, national popular culture. As a result, the tradi-tional link between citizen involvement in public life and small communities has been rendered obsolete, and in a complete reversal in large nation-sates based on popular sovereignty excessive solidarity, rampant nationalism, has become a significant problem in twentieth-century politics.
With respect to the citizen, during the last two hundred years almost all the governments of the West have come to define themselves as democratic governments the success of which depends on the participation of autonomous citizens, and one might expect as a result that the fundamental aim of education would have become, following the classical and renaissance experience, the universal promotion of civic virtue. In actuality the definition of aims has been more ambiguous. On the one hand, politics is understood to be a matter of democratic participation; yet on the other, governments, economies, diverse institutions, have come to rely on systems of bureaucratic organization and industrial production that function through hierarchical relationships. Within these administrative and industrial hierarchies, participation on a premise of equality is feared to be dysfunctional; to perform within them people need to subordinate their personal convictions to the particular roles they have to play within a hierarchy of jobs and offices. Modern provisions for education—universal compulsory schooling, extensive higher education, and continuous exposure to mass media—have been extensively adapted to serve the needs of hierarchical governmental, industrial, and social institutions, and in this way the controlling aim of education has largely become one of preparing people as subjects to perform well and willingly the functions they have to perform within the system. Thus the tension between the person as independent citizen and as responsive subject is a tension long present in the history of education and a tension that has yet to be historically resolved.
- James Bowen, A History of Western Education, 2 vols., (1972, 1975)
- H. I. Marrou, A History of Education in Antiquity (1956)
- Philippe Aries, Centuries of Childhood: A Social History of Family Life (1962)
- R. R. Bolgar, The Classical Heritage and Its Beneficiaries (1954)
- Hans Baron The Crisis of the Early Italian Renaissance, (1956)
- The New Cambridge Modern History, 13 vols., (Chapters on education and popular culture)