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The Civic Seminary: Sources of Modern Public Education in the Lutheran Reformation of Germany


John Witte Jr.


Emory University School of Law

1995

Journal of Law and Religion, Vol. 12, No. 1, p. 173, 1995-1996

Abstract:     
This Article documents how and why the sixteenth-century Lutheran Reformation helped to build the modern public education system of the West. Rejecting the medieval tradition of church education primarily for and by the clergy, Martin Luther argued that all Christians need to be educated to be able to read the Bible on their own, to participate fully in the life of the church, state, and society, and to prepare for their distinct vocations. Lutheran Germany and Scandinavia thus set up public schools as “civic seminaries,” in Philip Melanchthon’s apt phrase, designed to offer general spiritual and civic education for all. In early modern Lutheran lands, the state replaced the church as the chief educator of the community, and free basic education with standard curricula was made compulsory for all children, boys and girls alike. The Article offers case studies of new German city and territorial laws on education on the books and in action, and it reflects on the enduring significance of this early experiment in education even in our day.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 54

Keywords: Lutheran Reformation; Martin Luther; Philip Melanchthon; Johannes Brenz; Education; Public Schools; Germany; Curriculum; Girl Schools; Brunswick; Württemburg

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Date posted: May 26, 2011 ; Last revised: October 4, 2014

Suggested Citation

Witte, John, The Civic Seminary: Sources of Modern Public Education in the Lutheran Reformation of Germany (1995). Journal of Law and Religion, Vol. 12, No. 1, p. 173, 1995-1996. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1851126

Contact Information

John Witte Jr. (Contact Author)
Emory University School of Law ( email )
1301 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA 30322
United States
404-727-6980 (Phone)
404-712-8605 (Fax)
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