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Research Paper on the History of Education

8 pages
1984 words
University of California, Santa Barbara
Type of paper: 
Research paper
This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.

Education means the process of enabling the acquisition of knowledge, habits, beliefs, values, and skills. It is one of the oldest and still existent social practices in the world having started thousands of years ago. It started even before writing was discovered and was conducted mainly through words of mouth and apprenticeship. This is how knowledge, skills, and culture were passed down from generation to generation. Schools were later established to facilitate education. This form of education was made more popular by the discovery of writing. Education has since developed to the current type and explanation we are aware of. We will examine the start, growth, and development of education up to its current state and look into the future growth possibilities.

Education is said to have begun in the Roman republic. In fact, the word education itself was adopted from the Roman Latin version of the word educatio (Bonner, 5). However, in Rome, it did not mean the current explanation as schooling and acquisition. It meant the actual physical raising of a child and their coaching in good self-conduct. The Roman term for a well-educated individual was "bene educates" and simply meant an individual who had been brought up well and not necessarily well educated as per our current definitions. Conduct and values were valued as much as the acquisition of skills in the ancient Rome setting. The Romans structured their education system such as that of the Greeks, and it is easy to see their numerous similarities. Students thus developed a deeper knowledge of the integrated teaching perspectives. It is this Roman education model that was used as reference and basis for western civilization. With a close examination of the beginning of education in Rome, this study will prove beneficial not just for the study of early forms of education but also for the study of the importance of education in current times; and how to enable future growth in education.

History of Education in Rome

Education in ancient Rome started at home. Fathers were responsible for educating their sons (Bonner, 7). However, this was a general responsibility of both the childs parents and relatives. As said earlier, education in Rome was not only about the acquisition of skills but also values and morals. These latter two were primarily taught at home by the parents and relatives. The first form of values that the children were exposed to was respect. A father in any Roman family was a figure of authority. His word was law and was obeyed without questioning. The erring son was punished by the father as the latter saw fit. However, Romans also sought to teach justice to their children.

The father before passing out any punishment always held a court. This is where the culprit child was to be judged and allowed to defend oneself. The father acted as the sole and final judge, and his judgment was undisputable however unfavorable (Bonner, 10). Children accepted and served their parents punishments as meted out to them without complaint. According to a philosopher by the name Seneca, nothing in the world was more praiseworthy as the obedience of a son to his parents. He was supposed to be proud of always obeying his parents' authority whether just or not. A good son was supposed to be submissive to his parents and never question their authority. These childhood lessons were aimed at teaching children the importance of respect for their elders.

The importance of passing education down to the children in the family can be seen in the biography of Cato, a great roman elder. According to a writer named Plutarch, Cato always rushed home and ensured he was present when his son retired to bed. According to Cato, only the most critical of public matters could keep him away from such occasions (Bonner, 14). Ancient Romans also had slaves in their houses that were knowledgeable in reading and writing. These slaves were tasked with teaching the children of their masters.

However, according to Plutarch, Cato would not entertain the idea. He was completely against the thought of having his son rebuked by a mere slave on account of not grasping ideas as fast as he should. He could not fathom leaving such an important matter as his son's education in the hands of a slave. In this regard, he taught his son to read and write (Bonner, 14). The elder Cato's biography by Plutarch reveals an important aspect of Roman education. It was mainly acquired in the family as formal schools were yet to be set up. A huge chunk of the education of the children consisted of the words of wisdom that a father passed down to them in a talk. The topics on which fathers taught and spoke to their children were diverse. They ranged from politics to socioeconomics, law and even public oratory. Fathers taught their sons what virtues to adopt and the vices to shun.

Another approach to family education was the involvement of private tutors. Most of the private tutors were Greeks who had moved to the Roman Republic and settled there. They had to be conversant and fluent in both Greek and Latin especially the latter as it was the official language of the Romans. This was at around 169 B.C. The most common subjects taught by these private tutors were literature and language. This information can be proved by an examination of the life of Aemilius Paulus. Aemilius Paulus was a Roman consul in the year 182 B.C.

According to his biography, he spared no effort when it came to providing a good education for his two sons. He acquired a group of scholars and tutors from Greece to impart their knowledge to his sons. Among the tutors, he provided his sons with, were those skilled in philosophy, rhetoric, literature, artists and physical sports (Bonner, 15). However, this type of education was not entirely left to tutors. Parents, especially fathers, always took whatever time they could sacrifice to be present at their children's instruction. However, it is important to understand this type of education could only be afforded by the rich people and the entitled in the Roman society. The huge number of Greek tutors in the roman cities and houses can be credited to the roman win of the third Macedonian war. They brought back with them thousands of Greek prisoners who turned out to be tutors and spread Greek knowledge.

At the height of greatness of the Roman Empire, education finally transformed. This was around the 2nd century AD. The system moved from the ancient and informal familial education system to the tuition-based system close to what we have today. This was adopted during the late republic and the Roman Empire. The new education system was modeled after the Greek system. These modeling can be accredited to the truth that many of the tutors who emerged during these times were Greek. The late republic and the Roman republic experienced the establishment of the first formal schools in Roman soil. The education was, however, not free like in our current system. The students in these schools were expected to pay for their tuition. Another change that took place during this time was the education of both boys and girls.

In the ancient times, only boys were educated in serious matters like philosophy. Girls were mainly only taught how to be housekeepers and obedient to their husbands. However, with the new age, girls were free to access education. Also, children of poorer families who could afford to hire private tutors were able to access quality education at these institutions. In a style similar to what we currently have, the Roman education system was modeled into levels for the first time. There was the establishment of the fact that knowledge should be impacted early on in life. In fact, Quintilian suggested that memory of education is more retentive at a young age. In this new system, a student was expected to make one's way up the education system from primary to secondary and so on. Progress to the next level of education was, however, independent of age, unlike modern times. The merit to promote a child to a higher level was based on the child's abilities, and knowledge gained (Bonner, 101). Also, the ability to afford the education was a key determinant in whether a child would advance to the next level of education.

Education in the Current World

After the Roman Empire fell apart, there was a vacuum left in the development of education. The Catholic Church chose to fill the shoes of the fallen empire and became the preservers of literate learning in Europe and more so the western part. In its effort to further education in the world, the Catholic Church in the early middle ages established and funded the building of cathedral schools (Faure 21). These were established as centers of higher education. Most of these institutions went on to grow and are part of the current world-famous medieval universities in Europe. These universities are behind the education of some of the world's greatest philosophers and thinkers. Their form of education encouraged free thinking and the freedom of inquiry. Some of the great people who have passed through these schools include Albert the Great, Thomas Aquinas who attended the University of Naples as well as Robert Grosseteste, an alumnus of the Oxford University (Faure 22).

Still, during the middle ages, another education revolution also took place in the Middle East. Islamic science was now flourishing in the area that extended from the west in the Indus to east in the Iberian Peninsula. In the north, it went as far as Almoravid dynasty and to the south the Mali Empire. Under the Islamic Caliphate, mathematics and Islamic Science were taught all across the Middle East leading to the emergence of great scholars such as Abu Zayd al-Balki (Faure, 35).

The renaissance of Europe is responsible for the development of the new age of scientific and intellectual analysis. Also, the recognition of the importance of the Roman and Greek civilizations in current scientific discoveries took place at this time. The spread of education was facilitated by the invention of a printing press in 1450. Johannes Gutenberg was the inventor of the printing press and enabled the spread of philosophy, arts, and sciences as well as religion. This also led to the sharing of knowledge between different parts of the world. Currently, almost all the countries in the world have an age when all children should have joined a formal learning experience.

Education in our current world has grown tremendously with huge steps being taken every day to improve it. The internet is arguably the largest booster for the development of education (Faure, 40). Our current education system is modeled after the Roman education system. Students start from the primary level advance to the secondary level and finally to institutions of higher learning. Education can be attributed to the most of the major events that have taken place in our current world. Most notable is industrialization. The study of ways in which to make work easier and mechanize most processes led to this era. This led to the invention of machines that replaced human laborers in most industries.

Also, education is indirectly responsible for the events that determined the outcomes of wars such as the First and Second World Wars. The study of ways to improve and invent new weapons led to the discovery of more superior weapons. The most significant is the invention of the nuclear bomb. This was solely responsible for the end of the Second World War when America bombed Japan. Another area where the effect of education is being felt is in the technological circle. Every day, the world makes huge achievements in improving the current technology. Things thought impossible just a few years ago are normality today.

The Future of Education

The future for education looks very bright. The major reason behind thi...

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