We know Martin Luther, the 16th century reformer, primarily due to his 95 Thesis nailed to the door at Wittenberg where he hoped to stir a debate over inconsistencies between what the church practiced and what the bible taught, and while the reformation had specific and nuanced focuses, it was very focused on education as well.
“It is sometimes forgotten that the Reformation was as much concerned with school as it was with church and home.” Dr. Riemel Faber
Luther was a passionate educator that believed materialism was destroying the educational underpinnings needed in a thriving society. In fact, he wrote an extensive work addressing his concerns entitled, “To the Councilmen of All Cities in Germany That They Establish and Maintain Christian Schools”. In which Luther addresses civic leaders of Germany to take care that society depends upon the proper education of its youth. Luther wasn’t abdicating the parental responsibility in education, rather assumed parental responsibility in education and built on that in impressing upon the civic leaders their moral obligation to promote the Kingdom of God. Their role as civic leaders was to promote a Godly society. His second major educational treatise was a sermon on “Keeping children in school”. In this he addressed the clergy specifically in their role and responsibility in education.
In Luther’s time, proper education was for the wealthier families in society, whereas, Luther urged civic leaders to take responsibility for insuring that boys, girls, rich, and poor had the same educational opportunity. In so doing, assuming the civic leadership where Christian, Luther believed this would deeply benefit the state and the church.
“a city’s best and greatest welfare, safety and strength consist rather in its having many able, learned, wise, honorable, and well-educated citizens” than in “mighty walls and magnificent buildings” – Martin Luther
Because Luther held the teaching of scripture as utmost important in education, he leaned heavily into a classical and ancient way in which to educate. Luther believed that the study of the liberal arts gave one the surest context for the study of scripture. For Luther, all education was anchored on scripture. Taking from Dr. Faber’s quote above, the summation of Luther’s educational Philosophy encompasses the civil, religious, and familial responsibility and formation in education.
My wife and I have home-schooled, private-schooled, and public-schooled, and there are no end to the silos these thoughts create. While we encourage families to take many factors in consideration when educating their children, and we have dear friends completely opposed to public education, it is critical to peer into the initial underpinnings of universal education. It had at its core the inclusion of those less fortunate in our society so that they too could gain an educational foundation not just for them but for all of societies improvement to the glory of God.
“If I had to give up preaching and my other duties — there is no other office I would rather have than school teacher.” – Martin Luther (George Knight, 261n)
BY JOSHUA WHETSTINE – NORTH AMERICAN MISSION BOARD CITY MISSIONARY FOR MINNEAPOLIS/ST. PAUL.
Knight, G. R. (2006). Philosophy and Education: an introdction in Christian perspective (4th ed.). Berrien Springs: Andrews University Press.
Faber, D. R. (2016). Martin Luther on Reformed Education. Retrieved from Spindleworks: http://www.spindleworks.com/library/rfaber/luther_edu.htm
Hill, J. E. (2007). Luther on Classical Lutheran Education. Retrieved from Consortium of Classical Lutheran Education: http://www.ccle.org/luther-on-education/