Education During The Renaissance Essay

Renaisance Education: Values and Purposes

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Renaisance Education: Values and Purposes

The Renaissance was a time of change. It began in Italy during the 14th century, and spread throughout the North. People all over Europe were affected, for the better and for the worse. Some people finally had a chance to control their own fate. Others, like upper class women, lost their social status. The values and purposes of Renaissance education were to improve the society, increase the economy, and restore the religious beliefs.
The social lives of people were greatly influenced by advancements in education during the Renaissance. More people then ever before were send to schools and educated. Schools for girls were built, and they were taught sewing, reading, writing, and dancing. Some of these schools even had teachers for singing and playing instruments. Upper class women were taught language, philosophy, theology and mathematics. But their education only prepared them for social life at home. Women lost political power, access to property and their role in shaping society.

People were taught to understand and judge the writings of others. Courtiers, aristocrats and nobles were able to write poetry and text. By being well educated, having good penmanship, knowing how to ride, play, dance, sing, and dress well, men of high status gained respect and reputation. These skills also helped attain preference and support among princes. Nevertheless, the school system did not teach youth how to behave in daily life situations. They spent too much time on Grammar, Rhetoric, and Logic. Those studies that were realistic, enlightened men's minds, and prepared them for life, were reserved for the Universities. Therefore, students had a slight understanding of the meaning and the true use of knowledge. They were only able to write Latin, which no one of judgement would want to read, and when they went to universities, they wasted their friends' money and their own time. Afterwards, they would return home again, as unsophisticated and uneducated as they were before.

In addition, many individuals thought that having to many schools was a terrible thing. They believed that only a minority of men should study literature, because more farmers were needed than judges, more soldiers than priests, more merchants than philosophers, and more hard working groups than dreamy and thoughtful individuals. Italian humanist Piccolomini, who himself was educated, believed that philosophy and literature, should be taught to every individual, because these studies reveal the truths about the past, the reality of the present, and the prediction of the future.

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In his book, "On the Education of Free Men", written in 1450, he wrote, where there is no literature, there is ignorance! Erasmus, a northern humanist, believed that all the knowledge within human reach lies in the literatures of ancient Greece and Rome.

Renaissance education helped increase the economy of different cities in Europe, in which the Renaissance took place. Art, a very important form of self-expression, became very popular during the Renaissance. Wealthy patrons, which were usually educated, supported artists and paid them huge salaries to do works of art. Advances in education, allowed Italians to improve their shipbuilding techniques, thus increasing trade and allowing their ships to sail all year long. Venice traded overseas, while Genoa traded with the Middle East and Northern Europe. Knowledge of languages, penmanship, dancing, singing, and dressing well aided men of high status to great profit and honor. Florence was full of wealthy and educated merchants and bankers, who began to dominate Europe's banking. As a result the economy began to grow. With a stronger and larger economy, more schools were built. With more school systems available, more children were able to receive an education, and thus more students were able to attend universities, and later on take part in this growing economy.

Renaissance education helped restore religious beliefs. At least twice a year, every priest was to give a warning to the people attending worship that they best send their children to school. Not only for learning the liberal arts, but also about discipline, virtue, and God. If this was not done, then permanent damage might have resulted to the child. As children grow up without fear and knowledge of God, they learn nothing about what is needed to achieve salvation and nothing about discipline. As a consequence, they learn nothing about what is helpful to them in life. Some men believe that learning is nourishment of the sinful nature of women. When women are taught to read the classics, these books teach them good manners. When they are taught to write, their writings should be serious sentences, which are wise and virtuous, and taken out of Holy Scripture, or are the sayings of philosophers, instead of unimportant songs.

The Renaissance was a time of change, that began long ago, and has never ended since. It was a rebirth of humanistic culture and an enhancement in education. Even today, Renaissances' are occurring everywhere; all over the world, in our families, and within ourselves.

During the Renaissance, education was significantly influenced by the humanist movement. Lizann Flatt points out how humanist promoted the ideas of exploring and understanding various aspects of the human condition and experience. Furthermore, as trade increased in Europe during the Renaissance, and as scholars from the West met with scholars from the East, the exchange of information further encouraged the need for changing the educational system. In many ways, the humanism movement combined with the increase in trade markets created the necessity to bring education out of the control of the church and into the control of the masses.

While universities were forming, Flatt explains that the early forms of education in the Renaissance involved humanist scholars tutoring individuals. For the most part, only the wealthy could afford tutors, which Rabelais demonstrates by having his royal giants, both Gargantua and Pantagruel, educated by their own personal tutors, Ponocrates and Epistemon. Although the royalty and the extreme upper classes were among the first to employ humanist tutors to educate their children, wealthy merchants also purchased the services of these tutors, according to Flatt, since merchants needed their sons to understand critical thinking and mathematics in order to make sound business decisions. As more universities were built or opened up to the wealthier masses, tutors became professors, and more formal education programs were instituted.

As education moved out of the control of the church, the languages used for education also changed. Initially, everything was taught in Latin, which Flatt argues gave members of the clergy a significant edge in holding on to the educational system. Nevertheless, tutors taught their pupils Latin, so the clergy no longer had a monopoly over the main educational discourse. In addition, as Flatt points out, people began writing treatises within their own languages and publishing these documents. Similarly, many scholars took on the art of translating documents into other languages. Not only did translating allow them to practice their academic skills, but it served a major social need, especially in regard to negotiating foreign trade and foreign policies.

Although there was some standardization in teaching methodologies during the Renaissance, significant differences abounded, especially in regards to what was taught at different locations. Paul F. Grendler notes regional differences between schools in the south, predominately those in Italy, and schools in the north, such as those in Germany and England. According to Grendler’s research, universities in southern locations had far more professors teaching law and medicine, whereas universities in the north employed more professors to teach about the arts and theology. As a French scholar, Rabalais himself would have been more exposed to the field of law and medicine, which might explain why he became a physician. Likewise, with such a geographical distinction between university curriculums, this may highlight why Rabalais shows Pantagruel traveling so much to get a well-rounded education. Of course, as Grendler argues, it was not as if universities in either region did not employ professors in all fields. It does demonstrate, though, that university leaders preferred to hire more professors in certain areas rather than others.

Just as there was a regional difference in available educational fields, Grendler points out that the availability of each degree level often forced students to travel to distant universities. The universities in England and Germany offered some graduate-level degree programs in the fields of law and medicine, but the schools were limited on the amount of students accepted into these programs, due to the lack of professors in these fields. Therefore, the majority of students at these universities only earned bachelor’s degrees. In contrast, Grendler points out that bachelor’s degree programs were not very common in southern universities, and these programs were apparently not even available at most Italian universities. Thus, it was not uncommon for students to earn bachelor’s degrees in Germany or England and then travel down to Italy to continue graduate studies. Although many students today elect to complete their undergraduate studies at one facility and then go on to do their graduate studies at another facility, the main difference is that students in the Renaissance were often faced with no other choice but to travel far away from their families just to continue their education. At a time when travel of such a distance took weeks or months compared to modern travel times of hours or days, it  shows the dedication and desire of Renaissance students, since they were so willing to traverse such distances just to complete their education.


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