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TEACHING THROUGH THE CENTURIES

The greatest change seen looking back at centuries of education has been change in who comprise the students, RATHER THAN CHANGES IN TEACHING. But, since education involves transactions between teachers, students, and curriculum, changes in students also means changes in teachers. Formal schooling began in ancient Sumeria and Egypt, but it was until the 16th century almost exclusively for young males [not children] from the upper classes, with the greatest education for future rulers and for priests.

The change occurred with the Protestant Reformation, led by Martin Luther. Up until Luther, people depended on the Pope and their priests to read and interpret Scripture for them. Luther's Reformation stressed that saving faith was not a gift of the Church, but rather a gift of God that came through reading the Bible and believing. The importance of learning to read in order to gain eternal life became a belief that led to the education for literacy of all children, first in Germany, and then to other countries as the Reformation spread. "Without schools, religion cannot be maintained," Phillipp Melancthon, colleague of Luther said. A century earlier, the invention of the moveable type in Germany allowed books to be printed and place in the hands of students. Prior to that time the Teacher read from manuscipt copies, the only ones, of key texts. This kind of teaching was called "lecture".

Teaching styles seem to have been present from the start, some like Confucius and Socrates showing great respect for the pupils, some stressing more the authority of the Curriculum. An entire world of informal education arose naturally from the time of cavemen and up through the craftsmen guilds, where a parent or skilled leader would show youngsters how to hunt, gather, cook, build, etc. Teaching by storytelling was popular, and there was no division of knowledge into separate subjects or the day into separate times for learning.

The success of the Reformation's elementary schools soon led to a decline in Catholic education. This decline made the need for better Catholic schools more apparent, and men such as Ignatius Loyola restored Catholic schooling to prominence. Two trends were established which continued to characterize education up to the start of the Twentieth Century: 1) the primarily religious mission and purpose of education, and 2) the competition between Catholic and Protestant schooling.

American Education The earliest permanent European settlers, the Puritans, and the Massachusetts Bay Colony showed education’s continuing to come under the influence of religion and the conflict between Catholics and Protestants. The British colonies were settled by Protestants, and within a hundred years they were establishing colleges, beginning with Harvard in 1636, and mostly all founded by Protestant religious groups to educate upper class young men for the ministry--particularly in Greek (New Testament) and Hebrew (Old Testament).

One of the first education laws, called the Satan Deluder Act, required Massachusetts cities and towns to provide education of all children and youth in order that they might learn to read the Bible, and thus avoid the delusions of Satan’s snares. Still, only a minority of children received much more than informal education at home. Education continued in the following century, often by tutorial in the South, where population was scattered among farms and plantations, in a variety of ethnic/immigrant schools in the Middle Atlantic States, and in school houses in New England.

Horace Mann, born in 1789, almost single-handedly brought about the Common School movement, to schools that accepted all students, no matter what background. Beginning in 1846 he traveled on horseback, visiting every town and village in Massachusetts. He took note of resources, gathered parents and citizens together, and explained his proposed Common School, which he said would prevent violent crimes, end theft, fraud, and “nine-tenths of the crimes in the penal code,” and set the social conditions for the Millennial Kingdom of God--a Protestant belief of the time that social reform would bring about a Golden Age. This social reform idealism continues today as a potent force.

Mann was successful in establishing the Common School, in introducing the high school, and in founding a series of teacher training colleges called “Normal Schools”--one of which was Worcester State College (called Worcester Normal School then). Normal referred to norms or standards for curriculum and teacher preparation. Throughout the United States city and county school superintendents were, almost entirely, Protestant ministers. The Bible was a principal text.

As immigrants from Ireland and central Europe came in large numbers, the schools were expected to educate and enculturate them. But many Catholic parents objected to the King James Bible used in schools. They wanted their children to use the Douay Bible, that included Catholic teaching and commentary in the notes. This conflict came to a head in Philadelphia in 1844. A group of working-class white Americans, calling themselves “native Americans,” agitated against the Catholic version of the Bible being used in the schools. They called the Catholic view a foreign plot to destroy America. On May 6, 1844, they held a native American rally of some 3,000 supporters. Anti-immigration sentiment held strong in their speeches. Midway through the rally, a group of Catholic men stormed the stage with wheelbarrows full of mud, which they dumped on the platform. A fight broke out in which two Protestant children were killed, and the event called the “Philadelphia Bible Riots” ensued. More than 30 Catholics’ homes were burned on May 7. Protestant homes put a sign “NATIVE AMERICAN” on their lawns to avoid having their home burned. The riots spread and finally ended with the intervention of the state militia and at least one U.S. warship, but only after the violence had caused 14 deaths and a massive amount of property damage.

By the end of the 1840’s Protestants controlled most state school systems. Their prejudice against Catholics and their desire for universal school attendance assured that any alternatives to public schools would be private.

Some see in the history of schooling not so much religion, but the effort of the powerful in society to keep the masses under control, and preserve their own positions of wealth and privilege for generations. This resulted in a widespread fear of the "OTHER," whether immigrant or social class. Reprint and read The Origins of Compulsory Education. A study of historical sources confirms what Gatto writes in this essay.

The intertwining of religious motives and American education has a number of dimensions explored in DIVINING AMERICA, from the TeacherServe Site of the National Humanities Center. Spend time exploring this aspect of our history seldom taught in schools.

More recent influences on teaching will be covered in other inquiries in the course. For now, consider the years of violent conflict in Northern Ireland, in Bosnia and ithe Middle east, or in the history of our own and other countries, particularly against the Mayan, Incas, North American Indian tribes, Jews in Europe, Cambodia, Uganda--the list seems endless, based on religious and ethnic differences. What seems to make this kind of prejudice almost universal? What hope can we hold out for future generations to learn tolerance? There seem to be the roots of conflict based in human nature. Reprint and carefully read THE ROOTS OF RACISM. What are your thoughts on "GroupThink"?