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Unpublished Paper
The Protestant Reformation: Educational Ideas and Approaches Cultivated by Luther and Other Reformers
  • Samuel J. Smith
College students preparing to teach in elementary and secondary schools may be surprised to find that Martin Luther and John Calvin are often topics in their teacher education curriculum, especially in their Foundations of Education courses.  Although the attention given to these transformational leaders may only be cursory, their ideas are cited as having impacted the development of literacy and common schools in the West, especially in colonial New England.  To increase appreciation of the Protestant Reformation’s impact on the field of education, however, teacher candidates should be provided a more thorough examination of various reformers, their thoughts on education, and the impact their thoughts and actions have had on the field.  For example, a reader of Luther’s Three Treatises will notice references he made to education, schooling, and the role of church and government in society.  In “To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation,” Luther wrote, “I would advise no one to send his child where the Holy Scriptures are not supreme. . . .  I greatly fear that the universities, unless they teach the Holy Scriptures diligently and impress them on the young students, are wide gates to hell.”   David Barton also quoted that statement in his video entitled Four Centuries of American Education (2004), and it is such references for which this paper will provide context and deeper understanding of how doctrinal and educational beliefs, cultivated during the Protestant Reformation, served as underpinnings for the development of universal publicly-funded education in the West.
  • Protestant Reformation,
  • Martin Luther,
  • John Calvin,
  • Desiderius Erasmus,
  • Philipp Melancthon
Publication Date
Citation Information
Samuel J. Smith. "The Protestant Reformation: Educational Ideas and Approaches Cultivated by Luther and Other Reformers" (2017)
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