Christianity’s Contributions: Schools started (Part 3)

Education and the Christian Church have been combined for many centuries.  The previous blogs focused on the Early Church and developments since that time.  In this blog, let’s examine the influence of Christians on education from the 1500’s to the 1800’s.

Just detailing the contributions to education by Martin Luther alone are impressive.  Here are a few of the more notable ones.  Luther wrote his Small Catechism in 1529  for fathers to teach their children the basics of faith.  Instead of relying solely on the church or school to teach the faith, Luther hoped to equip the parents, specifically the father, to do the job that God had entrusted them to do.  Recall the words of Deuteronomy 6:6-9.  God commands, “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.  Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”

Luther believed schools were essential to make God-fearing and law-abiding citizens.  Since we operate in the two kingdoms of the Church and the State, helping students see how they could serve both God and society was crucial for a healthy society.  To that end, Luther also championed tax-supported schools to insure educated and godly citizens.  He also believed in compulsory education for all.

Besides Luther, there were other Lutheran contributors to education in general.  Graded schools were developed by Johann Sturm (1507-89) and the kindergarten by Friedrich Froebel (1782-1852).

Later, schools to help those with physical disabilities were started.  Education for the deaf began through the efforts of  Abbe Charles de l’Epee in Paris (1775).  Louis Braille (1834) developed schools for the blind.  Yet even education for children without handicaps was needed since so many of them were working in factories during the day in the 1700’s.  Amazingly, children worked up to 12 hours per day, 6 days a week.  There was no time for education with that type of work schedule.  So to educate children who had to work Monday through Saturday, the Sunday School was born.  The brainchild of Robert Raikes (1780), this format of school on Sunday offered children lessons on how to read as well as lessons on the Bible.  For many of us, we attended Sunday School and simply were taught Bible stories; the original intent was to educate children in those and more.

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