Essay: 16th century to 17th century education

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  • 16th century to 17th century education
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The end of the 15th century marked the blossoming of educational institutions and humanistic studies in England. Drawing from the ideas of Lauwerys et al., such a period represented rapid transformation from the medieval tradition to the period of the Renaissance. With the ushering in of the new century, therefore, the humanists produced texts for the study of the Classical languages besides starting a new grammar school type. Some of the prominent humanist scholars of the period include John Colet, Thomas More, William Lily, and Thomas Linacre. These authors prepared excellent texts on the language syntax, parts of speech, and the structure of language, mostly Latin. On the part of Androne, he considers the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century a significant factor in the intellectual and education transformation. The Reformation played a role in deeply changing not only doctrinal, ritualistic, and leadership aspects of the Church but also the political and socio-cultural aspects of society. Nebiolo emphasizes the contribution of the Reformation wars to the intellectual advancement in medicine as he highlights how the improvement of weapons in the battlefield demanded better approaches to treat wounds. And as the education continue develops, as I will analyze in the rest of the paper, the intellectual and education has changed dramatically. The 16th century to the 17th century was marked by the shift from religious pedagogy to the focus on science and math.

Back to the end of 15th Century, Lauwerys et al. single out the critical role of Colet in English education as the dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral. In his position, Colet founded the St. Paul’s School that favored the introduction of humanism as well as transforming the old ecclesiastical medieval schools in England. Having traveled to Italy and France a great deal, Colet desired to introduce the fascinating humanistic culture thus going ahead to start a grammar school in 1510. The school was open to approximately 150 scholars who had completed elementary school as well as having an aptitude for study. The school became a lively English humanism center courtesy of the energy and personality of Colet. Besides Colet, Lauwerys et al. also underline the critical role of More, a statesman and distinguished humanist. His interest was in pedagogy hence dedicating part of his Utopia (1516)’s work to it. More was a strong proponent of the Greek language and its new instruction representation in the battle against medieval tradition that was deeply rooted. Lauwerys et al. continue the arguments by asserting the development of new social and political systems in the European countries that had broken away from the Roman Catholic Church in the 16th century. The proposition made is that the newly found countries exhibited the crucial characteristic of the significance of the state in organizing the educational system. Thus, European humanism and the Reformation influenced one another where both events expressed a keen interest in the study of the Greek and Hebrew Classical languages.

Even so, humanists and reformers clashed at some point especially regarding the access to education. Lauwerys et al. claim that whereas humanists emphasized the developing of a world of artists and writers committing their time to the pursuit of literary and artistic works, the reformers’ targeted educating the masses. Such education, nonetheless, aimed at promoting piety as its primary purpose was to enable Scripture reading in the purest of forms. No wonder, German religious reformer and theologian Martin Luther expressed in a letter to Jacob Strauss in 1524 that the “neglect of education will become the greatest ruin to the Gospel” (Lauwerys et al.). He thus advocated for the extension of education to all children, girls and boys, rather than making it available to a leisured minority as was the case in Renaissance Italy. Other than the struggle between humanism and the Reformation in 16th century education, Androne’s sentiments emphasize the religious pedagogy characterizing the education of the era. The author asserts that there was focus on providing people with a sound Christian education founded on the word of God. There was thus a connection between the Reformation and the Renaissance humanism that embraced education ideals and a set of values that took an interest in Greek and Roman Antiquity. The scholars of the period felt that education was the instrument for changing man’s relationship to God and fellow humans hence creating a sense of spiritual and intellectual education. The aim was to have literate Christians that could read the Bible in the original hence able to find God’s will regarding the extent to which the Church’s tradition had strained from the divine instructions. The Protestantism personalities, equally, recognized the impossibility of civilized behavior or the differentiation of right from wrong in the absence of a solid education by teachers that were well-trained (Androne). In Luther’s perspective, he felt that education people would serve God better as well as cope with existing challenges of existence. Other than that, he stressed the aspect of discipline and obedience in connection with education hence the 16th-century education had the characteristic of parents had the responsibility of pedagogical duties for the younger generations.

Roberts also offers a perspective on the 16th-century education that points to the existence of education of girls besides such educational practices being unconventional. He says that the 16th and 17th centuries in England showed evidence of girls’ secondary education for learning Latin and foreign languages. The parents, however, determined the education girls received based on what they thought was essential in readiness for playing the role of a wife and mother (Roberts). Among some of the parents, there was the perception that advanced education for the girls could prove a disadvantage as intellectual wives were difficult for the husband to manage. The conclusions drawn from the period’s education was that the children learned only what was necessary for later life. After all, the future life’s role was dedicated to reproduction hence intellectual prowess was irrelevant. The education of women was also viewed as a threat to their modesty. Unsurprisingly, home-tutoring characterized the education of the 16th century as the girls’ education reform was left to the choice of the parents rather than taking a wide scale reform.

By the 17th century, Nebiolo notes that there was a shift toward the intellectual liberation of the century, signifying a departure from the religious pedagogy of the 16th century. Education began to focus on the learning and development of science and math. Focus, therefore, was turned from religious and culture aspect to the natural world. By way of example, Nebiolo underscores the progression in the field of surgery that traces back to the mid-16th century. The increasing demand for surgeons prompted the introduction of surgical courses and literature in medical schools. Other than surgery being done by the local barber surgeons, as known then across Europe, the battlefield emerged as a significant area calling for the services of the surgeons. Despite the deteriorating status of surgeons owing to the associated experiences of pain and loss of body parts in the process of their duties, the introduction of more menacing weapons in the battlefield came as a welcome event. Cannons and gunpowder from the mid-16th century, for instance, was crucial in the barber surgeons’ intellectual advancement to more efficient tools. Considering such weapons induced severe damage to parts of the body, technological inventions the Guy de Chauliac’s speculum received modifications that include the mounting of a mirror to assess wounds and determine the extent of bullet embeddedness (Nebiolo). Therefore, the intellectual progression from the 16th to the 17th century was marked by the improvement of surgical craft as a representation of the focus on science. The Reformation wars thus helped a great deal in advancing from medieval learning to the pursuit of the natural world pedagogy.

A changing public opinion on education also contributed to the transformations in education as medical professions changed. As such, there was a growth in published texts on surgery as an indicator of the changing public opinion. Nebiolo notes that it was not until the late sixteenth century when surgical texts started circulating in Europe. The new research on human body and surgical tools emerged in that period hence the emergence of books as a new source of knowledge for the surgeons.

In conclusion, the weight has shifted from a heavily religious base to the learning of math, physics and all other types from 16th century to 17th century. 16th-century education saw parents offering basic education to their children with the intention of gaining the competence to read the bible. At the dawn of the 17th century, however, attention turned to intellectual liberation that emphasized the methods of the natural science. The field of medicine, in particular surgery, represents the enlightenment of the period, pedagogy influenced by the introduction of advanced weapons in the Reformation wars.

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