The Civic Seminary: The Sources of Modern Public Education in the Lutheran Reformation of Germany
John Witte Jr.
Emory University School of Law
Journal of Law and Religion, Vol. 12, No. 1, p. 173, 1995-1996
A modern trend among Western historians has been to deny the importance of the Lutheran Reformation. The two volume Handbook of European History continues in this modern tradition, claiming that the Protestant Reformation was merely preparation for the Enlightenment. The volume sees the Reformation as a transition era marked by consistent trends of economic depression, the rupture of Christendom, and the founding of the first European seaborne empires. This thesis is neither cogent nor cognizant. The Reformation is neither a theological invention nor a legal invention; instead, the Reformation created sweeping changes throughout Western society.
The Catholic tradition of education in Germany dominated German education prior to the Lutheran Revolution. The Lutheran Reformation of education criticized the Catholic tradition and grounded its theory of education in the doctrine of two kingdoms. Education was essential to maintenance of the heavenly and earthly kingdom because education serves the estates of family, church, and state.
The Lutheran Reformation of education replaced clerics with magistrates. Thus, the church was no longer considered the primary custodian of schools. These civil magistrates had to provide parents and children with opportunities to educate themselves. At least rudimentary education became compulsory for all children at the earliest age possible. Schools were made readily available, and served as civic seminaries, inculcating both right religion and broad erudition in their students. These changes created a dramatic influence on lower education, especially urban and public schools.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 54
Keywords: Lutheran Reformation, Protestant Reformation, Enlightenment, educationAccepted Paper Series
Date posted: May 26, 2011
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