Monday, November 14, 2011

Medieval Education

In a recent report (Deliver us from the universities), National Post columnist George Jonas wrote that the "origin of schools and scholars is ecclesiastical, not liberal." This implies a difference, if not a dichotomy, between ecclesiastical and liberal.

History illustrates otherwise. In the Western World, the liberal arts began in Catholic institutions. Refusal to acknowledge this fact still handicaps victims of the Enlightenment who speak of "bookish monks looking for heresy", and use the word medieval as a pejorative.

What was actually taught in these places of learning?

Erasmus (1466-1536): "The task of fashioning the young includes instilling a love for, and thorough knowledge of, the liberal arts."

Required reading for Thomas More (1478-1535) while at Oxford included Aristotle, Boethius, Cicero and Ovid.

The curriculum of the sixth century cathedral schools consisted of the seven liberal arts. Boethius (475-525) listed them: grammar, rhetoric, logic, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy and music.

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