Families in History - Education

Historical pictures of the way children have been taught start with home-schooling scenes. Besides learning to read and write, children needed to master home crafts and trades.

Schools and teachers have a long history, shown in pictures from classical civilizations to the present. Writing developed from oral language using a variety of methods and materials, from a stylus to hieroglyphics carved in stone. Ancient Greek educators included tutors such as Aristotle and Socrates, as well as storytellers like Homer, devised methods for thinking about the present and for learning about the past. In classical civilizations, philosophy, oratory, and theater flourished. Education in the ancient Rome led to the literary and artistic flowering called the Augustan Age. Arab scholars, based in ancient Alexandria, carried medieval science and learning through the Dark Ages. Libraries became essential to education and study soon afer writing was developed.

Religious instruction played an important role in the history of education. Medieval monks transmitted culture by copying and illustrating great writings, including Bibles and secular works from earlier times, creating illuminated manuscripts. In medieval cities, European universities emerged to promote religious study, and grew to pursue other subjects as well. Similarly, many American colleges grew from colonial divinity schools to institutions of general education. Ultimately, university professors became pictured primarily in secular studies such as physics and paleontology, and the link to theology dimmed.

Oral traditions used during prehistoric human life were replaced by alphabets and systems of writing, an activity originally confined to professional scribes shown in historical pictures. Gutenberg's printing press in the mid-1400s became the key to widespread literacy as more people had access to books. Printing Bibles probably contributed to the Protestant Reformation, because people who could read the Bible for themselves were less intellectual dependent on literate clergy. Reading also may be linked to expanded public education after the Middle Ages. In the ensuing centuries, manuscripts were replaced by printed books as the dominant transmitters of culture.

Historical public education in the US is pictured in rural village one-room schools and in urban classrooms of immigrant children and other city students. Kindergarten was introduced in the 1800s. African-American education became a priority for freed slaves who had not been allowed to learn to read under slavery.


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