The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Education, History of

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EDUCATION, History of. The history of education begins with primitive man — in fact even with the lower animals, for any training which is given by one being to another to enable it to do something better than it would otherwise be able to do may be designated education. We might distinguish between the education which is given by animals, which is instinctive, and that which is given by human beings, which is partly instinctive and partly consciously and deliberately worked out into a system.

The earliest system, if it may be called such, that of primitive man, had, perhaps very much of it instinctively, as its end the object of teaching others, particularly the young, methods of protection from enemies and of obtaining food, clothing and shelter. In other words, savage education adapted itself to the immediate needs of life. To estimate how widely it extended itself alone such lines one only has to think of the actually widely extended domain of savage activity; the making of arms, boats, clothing, huts, the manufacture of articles used in the catching and preparation of food, fish-hooks, spears, traps and pottery of all sorts.

From the first times of which we know anything, considerable attention was given by primitive man to self-adornment, sometimes with a sex motive, at others with motives of protection and religious belief. The training given in making gaudy articles of decoration d not have that close relationship to the most immediate needs of life, and thus almost at the beginning of things education was unconsciously divided into training for the doing of those things which were useful and those which we may denominate as luxuries or superfluous — though where one merges into the other it is difficult to determine.

As man progressed from his extreme simplicity, and great industrial changes gradually took place, such as came with the domestication of animals and the discovery of agriculture, new things for which training or education was to be given arose. The more complex civilization has become, the more numerous have become the various elements for which the individuals have had to be trained, and thus every educational or training system should have adapted itself to the needs of the civilization in which it was existing. The natural conservatism of man has, however, as history shows, led him frequently to cling to an educational system adapted to earlier ages.

The influence of religion among all early peoples was so great that those of the community into whose hands the religious ceremonies gradually fell exercised an enormous influence. Training for their particular class became an end in itself and those who succeeded in becoming members not only determined the training which future entrants should have, but also by virtue of the peculiar influence of their profession succeeded in influencing all other training given — even for ends other than religion.

So powerful has been the influence of religion on education that beginning with the earliest people, of whose history we know much, the Egyptians, it continued to be the dominantly determining and usually reactionary and conservative factor right down through the middle of the 19th century, in a measure accounting for the fact that systems of education have so frequently lagged far behind the demands of civilization, and have riven a training in one century of a sort adapted to a condition of man's development of some centuries before.

The earliest teachers were with primitive peoples the parents, and they continued to be a very large factor in all ages. The professional teacher, however, had already come into existence at the dawn of history in Egypt. The priests were the most important of them, though there were many private teachers for teaching practical trades and professions. The methods employed in teaching were those largely of memorizing and imitation. Writing by the stylus on wood or with ink on papyrus was taught as was always reading and numbers. The discipline was severe, corporal punishment resorted to and the teacher held in respect.

Variations of the system in vogue among the Egyptians were to be found among the Chinese and Hindus. The Semitic peoples — the Babylonians, Assyrians, Hebrews, Phœnicians, showed less rigidity and fixity in their systems, probably due to less attention to caste in the social organisation than was the case with the former peoples. The studies given were reading, writing, arithmetic, history, religion, psalms, domestic arts, music, dancing and trades. Law, ethics, astronomy and geography were studied by those who went above the ordinary trades and went into the professions. The teaching was dominated by the priests and they exercised, a restraining influence on that breadth of education which might have come from bringing in Greek and Roman methods.

The history of Greek education extended over many centuries and during that time the educational system, beginning in Homeric times and closing with the Roman conquest, underwent many changes in ideals and content. Even over the period when the Greek world was supreme there were within its boundaries states that had very divergent systems of education. The two extremes are usually represented by Athens and Sparta and the difference between their educational ideals may be in a measure accounted for by differences in tribe and environment. The Athenians, sprung from the Ionians, were highly imaginative, artistic and literary. The Spartans, sprung from the Dorians, were lacking in imagination, were extremely practical and highly military. The former lived near the sea and in their maritime trade got a breadth of view and culture by trading with foreign nations, while the latter lived in the interior surrounded by their mountains, cut off from the broadening influence of contact with others. The educational ideal of the Athenians therefore came to be that of leading a complete life, beautifully and happily. The individual and his opinion were made much of. Ever with the idea of beauty in mind the young were taught grammar, poetry, style, oratory, rhetoric, music, mathematics, physics, economics and politics. The teachers, who were more or less free lances, overdeveloped themselves in their individualism and brought their pupils up to be unduly forward and disputatious and lacking in reverence for the state and religion.

In Sparta the ideal was to develop strength, courage and obedience — to subordinate the individual to the state. Much less stress was laid on the literary and the artistic. To accomplish this ideal the state was turned into a military school, and each citizen was trained accordingly. As the individual was not trained as such he was lacking in moral force.

It was from Athens rather than Sparta then that the first greatest teachers and writers on educational systems and theories came: Socrates, Xenophon, Plato and Aristotle, and probably no four men from any one people have exercised greater influence on educational history than these.

The Romans by nature were much more similar to the Spartans than to the Athenians. Their early educational work was very practical and centred in the home in which the father was the dominating and all-powerful factor. Training was thus given in the Laws of the Twelve Tables, in business, farming, civic duties, reading, writing and arithmetic. Girls received instruction in household duties.

After the conquest of the Greeks by the Romans the former began to exert a powerful influence on Roman education. Greek teachers came over in large numbers and the former purely practical education of the Romans began to take on a literary and artistic turn. The study of Greek prose and poetry was introduced even for the younger children, and in the higher schools training in history and science, philosophy, oratory, declamation and debate was given. Rome like Athens produced some profound students of education, the most important being Cicero, Seneca and Quintilian. Schools were multiplied and state support widely and generously given. With the incoming of the barbarian Teutonic hordes from the north and the disruption of the Roman Empire, the culture and the educational work of the Greeks and Romans largely disappeared. Education suffered a shock from which it did not recover for centuries and the world had in a way to begin all over again.

The Church assumed leadership not only in matters of religion but also in matters of state. For a time very little could be done about general education. As the ideal of life was ascetic and all things which pertained to man's life on this earth looked down upon, the education which was given was, in the ideal at least, to prepare men for the life to come. In the monasteries, where such teaching as was given was carried on, time was devoted to prayer and contemplation. The past was revered for its spiritual and religious teachings and books containing them were carefully copied. To this end largely the novices were taught reading, writing, singing, the church service and a little arithmetic. Then they were given the trivium (grammar, rhetoric and dialectic or logic) and the quadrivium (arithmetic geometry, astronomy and music) which made up the Seven Liberal Arts.

Though some outside of the religious order might enjoy the privileges of this education, the chief object of all of this instruction was religious. Even the attempts of Charlemagne in his Palatine School under the headship of Alcuin could not make the educational ideal very different After his death as during his life the only educated class was the clergy. The people generally and even the nobility received very little education in the ordinary acceptance of the term in ancient and modern times.

Such training of the noble classes as was given that might he called educational is to be described under the title of chivalry. A youth was trained as a page in attendance on a knight or lady, was given some instruction in music and poetry, and taught how to play chess. Later as a squire he was given military training and instruction in hunting, riding, jousting, swimming, religion and singing. As a knight he was taught ethics, to practise the virtues, to defend the Church and protect women. See Chivalry; Ethics.

Out of the monastic schools there grew up a certain type of scholarship known as scholasticism (q.v.), whose object was to use Greek knowledge for religious ends. Great stress was laid by its devotees on dialectics, the object of which study became not to discover new but to prove old truths. Aristotle and his works became to these students the chief source of knowledge.

During the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries there was a remarkable growth of cities, due to the activities of the artisan and commercial classes. These people were organized into trade and merchant guilds and it became the object of each guild to have its prospective members educated. The guilds employed teachers, usually drawn from the clergy, to give the children of members instruction in reading, writing, arithmetic. Even the cities as chartered bodies established schools for the same purposes. In each of the guilds there was a system of teaching boys a trade by the system of apprenticeship.

Toward the end of the 11th century and during the course of the 12th, universities began to grow. At first these were groups of students banded together for a common purpose, such as the study of medicine at Salerno or for law at Bologna. In Paris the university grew out of a school attached to the cathedral and was an organization of masters or teachers. The instruction there was at first mainly in theology. A university in our sense, with a large plant and numerous buildings, these were not. The students met for lectures in private houses or rented halls.

During the Middle Ages art, love of beauty, literature, poetry, science thrived as contributions to the support of religion and the Church. One important result of the Crusades (q.v.) was that they broadened men's minds, and subjects of study which had been formerly condemned because of the influence of the Church and the clergy came to be taught during the Renaissance. The study of the Greek and Latin languages for the knowledge of the literature and wealth of learning which the Greeks and Romans had was revived. The development of the individual became an object. The Church ceased to be everything and the men now thought of fame and glory for themselves. Teaching still remained in the hands of the clergy, but the subject matter of instruction was broadened. These Renaissance teachers in their turn fell into narrow ways and came to emphasize linguistic training to the exclusion of physical, social, artistic and scientific elements. Petrarch was such a teacher, whereas his fellow countryman, Vittorino da Feltre, emphasised history and civilization.

The Reformation and Counter-Reformation (qq.v.) brought about considerable changes in education as well as in religion. Luther and Melanchthon both demanded that education should be provided for all and that the state should maintain and control the schools and see that children attended them. Thus the idea of compulsory education was initiated. Stress was laid on teaching the vernacular, on providing simple instruction in the elementary schools to meet the immediate needs of the people. In the secondary schools, or Latin schools as they are called in England, instruction was given in the classics, history, mathematics, grammar, rhetoric, logic, music and gymnastics. Though in theory these schools were to supply leaders of thought, in practice they became preparatory schools for the universities, whose main object was the preparation of teachers and ministers. The liberalism in education which was at first promised by the Renaissance failed to materialize during the Reformation and education look on the form of supporting the various sects which had grown up after the revolt from Roman Catholicism. Corresponding to the Protestant schools were those of the Jesuits whose insistence on thoroughness and on well-trained teachers has become proverbial.

During the last half of the 16th and the whole of the 17th century this religious control and formalism dominated education. In content the curriculum was humanistic, but in spirit it was almost as ascetic and scholastic as in the Middle Ages.

This kind of education met with protests from certain scholars like Rabelais, Milton, Montaigne and Sir Francis Bacon, who have been denominated realists because they insisted on the study of thought and substance in literature, instead of the words and grammar, and on the study of nature, law, arts and trades by means of actual observation. The curriculum of studies, however, still remained literary and linguistic and this met with little opposition. The object of its supporters came to be to justify it and this they did through the theory of formal discipline, so well enunciated by the Englishman, John Locke. According to him it is not so much what is learned as how it is learned. The value to the pupil is in the discipline obtained in the process of learning.

The stiffness and formalism which had held sway in religion and education for so many centuries led, in the 18th to a revolt best illustrated by Rousseau. His was a cry “back to nature” — to doing things in a natural way — to permitting the development of a child according to its nature.

The influence of Rousseau was not immediate, but it left an indelible impression on the educational progress of the 19th century. Formalism gradually gave way to a natural treatment of the child and training was adapted to age and individuality. Following him came: Pestalozzi, who preached that in order to give proper education the psychology of the pupil taught must be studied and his needs, interests and abilities taken into consideration; Herbart, who emphasized the importance of education as a science and of the proper training of teachers to teach; Froebel, who was responsible for the establishment of the kindergarten and the development of the ideas that self-activity, initiative and individuality are important ends of education.

In the 19th century there has been a steady if slow development toward the theory that the proper education is that which enables the student to turn that which he acquires by learning to immediate use — that mental power is best developed by learning those things which are of most use in life. Herbert Spencer was the best exponent of this “turn to use” education. Children should be taught those subjects which will enable them to earn a livelihood and be good citizens. His influence was responsible for bringing science into the school curricula and for an attack on the formal discipline theories of Locke.

Down to the 19th century education had been generally considered from the point of view of the individual. The great growth in industries and in democracy during that century emphasized the need of educational systems which should take into consideration the position of the individual in society. The individual must be educated mentally, physically and morally, and he must be trained for the professions, or the trades, or in agriculture or commerce, for if he is not he will in a way be a drag on society and the body politic. For such an education all means known must be placed at the disposal of the child and citizen: schools, elementary and secondary, manual and vocational, colleges, academic and technical. Nor is the question as to whether the individual shall take the education one for voluntary action. Society has the power and the right to compel him to get an education.

To justify its place in the curriculum a study must be shown to have some immediate and practical relation to life. In the first quarter of the 20th century a visit to our schools and colleges shows the extremely practical turn which education has taken. In addition to instruction in the mother tongue, reading, writing, arithmetic, geography, history and other subjects familiar in earlier centuries, are to be found an array of such subjects as woodwork, ironwork, cooking, sewing, printing, drawing, architecture, engineering of all kinds, agriculture, horticulture, forestry, dairying, bookkeeping, business practice, civics, commercial law, stenography, typewriting, economics, banking, finance, transportation, insurance, sociology, carpentry, blacksmithing, molding, plumbing, machine-shop work, bricklaying, plastering, textile industries and many others. Thus the authorities in charge of public schools and universities have taken over many studies formerly left to private employers or agencies, and now by the establishment of playgrounds, nurseries, recreation centres, camps and many other activities are tending toward a control by the state in the interest of society which is cramping the freedom of action by the individual. The latest innovation advocated along such lines is that of compulsory military training in a democracy like the United States. This has been brought about by the Great War which began in 1914. How far this sociological method in education will go only the future can tell. See Education, Theological; Religious Education in the United States; Education, National, Systems of; and related subjects.

Bibliography.— Aspinwall, William B., ‘Outlines of the History of Education’; Hall, G. Stanley, and Mansfield, John M., ‘Hints toward a Bibliography of Education’; Monroe, Will S., ‘Bibliography of Education’; Monroe, Paul, ‘A textbook in the History of Education’; Columbia University Library, books on education; Bibliography of education in the Education Review 1899-1907, continued by the Bureau of Education annually 1907-11 and monthly 1912-18.

James Sullivan,
State Historian, The State Education Department, Albany, N. Y.