1902 Encyclopedia > Education > Origins of Education

(Part 1)

Origins of Education

This article is mainly concerned with the history of educational theories in the chief crises of their development. It has not been the object of the writer to give a history of the practical working of these theories, and still less to sketch the outlines of the science of teaching, which may be more conveniently dealt with under another head. The earliest education is that of the family. The child must be trained not to interfere with its parents’ convenience, and to acquire those little arts which will help in maintaining the economy of the household. It was long before any attempt was made to improve generations as they succeeded each other. The earliest schools were those of the priests. As soon as an educated priesthood had taken the place of the diviners and jugglers who abused the credulity of the earliest races, schools of the prophets became a necessity. The training required for ceremonials, the common life apart from the family, the accomplishments of reading and singing, afforded a nucleus for the organization of culture and an opportunity for the efforts of a philo-sopher in advance of his age. Convenience and gratitude confirmed the monopoly of the clergy. The schools of Judea and Egypt were ecclesiastical. The Jews bad but little effect on the progress of science, but our obtigations to the priests of the Nile valley are great indeed. Much of their learning is obscure to us, but we have reason to conclude that there is no branch of science in which they did not progress at least so far as observation and careful registration of facts could carry them. They were a source of enlightenment to surrounding nations. Not only the great lawgiver of the Jews, but those who were most active in stimulating the nascent energies of Hellas were careful to train themselves in the wisdom of the Egyptians. Greece, in giving an undying name to the literature of Alexandria, was only repaying the debt which she had incurred centuries before. Education became secular in countries where the priesthood did not exist as a separate body. At Rome, until Greece took her conqueror captive, a child was trained for the duties of life in the forum and the senate house.

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