Reformation and Protestant Influence on Education
The Reformation and the Protestant Influence on Education Prior to the Reformation, education was of relatively limited scope and quality. Only those who intended to pursue a career in the priesthood were provided with any type of education, and what they were taught was at best rudimentary in nature. In most cases, laymen received no formal schooling at all. There were trade schools that were solely for the vocational education of the children of guild members, and even these were under the supervision of the local parish priest. Although there were a few universities dotting the region, the level of education was subpar. Inspired by the ideals of Protestantism, the Reformation fundamentally altered the way the world educated its children for hundreds of years after its conclusion.
Protestant principles were the driving force behind the Reformation. While the education that they advocated continued to be Christian in nature, it was no longer under the supervision of the church. Even though their education was biblical and covenantal in nature, one of the fundamental elements of the education they mandated was that it contained liberal arts topics. Education also became mandatory for all children, not only clergy, vocational students, or those born into affluent families. Among the Protestant conceptions of education was a well-rounded, graded curriculum that was partially directed by the parents.
The Reformation theology of Scripture served as the foundation for the Protestant goals of the educational system. Every Christian was expected to read, know, memorize, learn, understand, and apply the Word of God in their lives, and there was a high expectation that they did so. Members of the Church would not be able to complete the doctrine if they did not have the capacity to read and reason well. It was necessary to provide all children with an education that allowed them to not just read and write but also learn and understand. The concept of reasoning was crucial in addition to the traditional memorization.
R. Hanko’s “Christian Education, Reformation Heritage” is available as a PDF download.