1902 Encyclopedia > Education > Johannes Sturm (1507-89)

(Part 7)

Johannes Sturm (1507-89), German scholar and educator

TWe now come to the names of three theoretical and practical teachers who have exercised and are still exercising a profound effect over education. The so-called Latin school, the parent of the gymnasium and the lycée, had spread all over Europe, and was especially flourishing in Germany. The programmes and time tables in use in these establishments have come down to us, and we possess notices of the lives and labours of many of the earliest teachers. It is not difficult to trace a picture of the education which the Reformation offered to the middle classes of Europe. Ample materials exist in German histories of educa-tion. We must confine ourselves to those moments which were of vital influence in the development of the science.

One school stands pre-eminently before the rest, situated in that border city on the debatable land between France and Germany, which has known how to combine and reconcile the peculiarities of French and German culture. Strasburg, besides a school of theology which unites the depth of Germany to the clearness and vivacity of France, educated the gilded youth of the 16th century under Sturm, as it trained the statesmen and diplomatists of the 18th under Koch. John Sturm (Johann Sturm) of Strasburg was the friend of Ascham, the author of the Scholemaster, and the tutor of Queen Elizabeth. It was Ascham who found Lady Jane Grey alone in her room at Bradgate bending her neck over the page of Plato when all the rest of her family were following the chase. Sturm was the first great headmaster, the progenitor of Busbys if not of Arnolds. He lived and worked till the age of eighty-two. He was a friend of all the most distinguished men of his age, the chosen repre-sentative of the Protestant cause in Europe, the ambassador to foreign powers. He was believed to be better informed than any man of his time of the complications of foreign politics. Rarely did an envoy pass from France to Germany without turning aside to profit by his experience. But the chief energies of his life were devoted to teaching. He drew his scholars from the whole of Europe ; Portugal, Poland, England sent their contingent to his halls. In 1578 his school numbered several thousand students ; he supplied at once the place of the cloister and the castle. What he most insisted upon was the teaching of Latin, not the conversational linqua franca of Erasmus, but pure, elegant Ciceronian Latinity. He may be called the intro-ducer of scholarship into the schools, a scholarship which as yet took little account of Greek. His pupils would write eleoant letters, deliver elegant Latin speeches, be familiar, if not with the thoughts, at least with the language of the ancients, would be scholars in order that they might be gentlemen. Our space will not permit us to trace the whole course of his influence, but he is in all probability as much answerable as any one for the euphuistic refinement which overspread Europe in the 16th century, and which went far to ruin and corrupt its literatures. Nowhere perhaps had he more effect than in England. Our older public schools, on breaking with the ancient faith, looked to Sturm as their model of Protestant education. His name and example became familiar to us by the exertions of his friend Ascham. Westminster, under the long reign of Busby, received a form which was generally accepted as the type of a gentleman’s education. The Public School Commission of 1862 found that the lines laid down by the great citizen of Strasburg, and copied by his admirers, had remained unchanged until within the memory of the present generation.

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