Monday, April 7, 2014

Bookmark and Share

The Middle Ages and Public Schools, funded by the Church

Another innovation.....

by Ferdinand III

The 'Middle Ages' have been damaged by calumnies spread by secular 'Enlightenment' theologians, and anti-clerical bigots in from the 17th to 20th centuries. In reality the Middle Ages from the decline of Rome into 3 Germanic kingdoms, until the 16th century, was a period of extreme challenge, change, innovation and adaptation. It is not an exaggeration to note that the period from 900-1300 AD saw the greatest increase in living standards in history, until the recent, modern era.

A peasant in Christian Europe circa 1100 AD was far better off, than he would have been in ancient Rome, Greece, Egypt or Sumeria; and vastly better fed and more literate than a contemporary squatting in the Moslem caliphate or in China. The 'Dark Ages' are a myth, and modern society with its superstition about Gaia, 'Dirty Weather', sexual confusions, Islam-is-Peace and reality-TV, can hardly accuse an older society of being irrational or non-scientific [see Darwin, evolution, panspermia, global-warming for more detail]. We should not romanticize the Middle Ages, but we certainly have no right to slander them.

Carolingian Reformation and Renaissance

When the Moslem hordes of Jihad were finally arrested, or at least obstructed from destroying Christendom [Tours 732 AD, Covadonga 722 AD]; the contraction of Mediterranean trade, wealth, and cultural exchange, created by the Moslem destruction of much of Christendom around the Mare Nostrum; could be in some small part, repaired. The unity of Charlemagne's Christian kingdom circa 800 AD [see here] which lasted almost two generations, provided as Rome once did, a Pax or peace, in which technology, trade, innovation, and education could be developed. This era is commonly referred to as the Carolingian Renaissance. Western European science and culture would have advanced even more quickly had this empire not dissolved into 3 separate and warring kingdoms.

Charlemagne's Frankish Empire covered most of Western Europe, and under his guidance a revival in art, culture, and learning, using the Catholic Church as a conduit, was established to transmit knowledge and education. Indeed the first public school system in the world was developed in England and then later within Charlemagne's empire, during this period. Charlemagne paid for the translation of many Latin and even Greek texts which covered ancient science [such as it was]; medicine, art and literature. His court also promoted astronomy, which by necessity entailed higher mathematics.

In England, a monk named Alcuin of York had created a system of education in art and theology which was a public school system in many respects, presaging what he would oversee under Charlemagne in Western Europe. In Alcuin's system arithmetic, geometry and astronomy were foundational subjects. This revolution in education is central to forming both a viable nation-state, and a population with the faculties and tools to create new and better methods, tools, systems and innovations.

The public school system of England was based around monasteries or notable Church-buildings. This system became the foundation for the greater reforms enacted throughout Charlemagne's empire. Alcuin was recruited by Charlemagne as the Minister of Education [in today's parlance]; and it was Alcuin who developed the Church-school curricula and who pushed forward the idea that all people needed education, literacy, and knowledge.

These reforms are themselves quite remarkable, all the more so, since in reality and contrary to modern misinformation, the Church did not 'rule' with an iron fist through Charlemagne, nor was the 'center of power' all that strong. Until the establishment of the nation state ideal [nationalism truly comes into being in perhaps the 15th century]; the power of Kings, or the Church, was severely limited. Regions, barons, lords, powerful local forces, markets, and intra-Church; intra-court centres of power, a lack of centrally controlled communications and enforcement; made centralization of rule an impossibility.

In any event, thanks to the energy of many learned Catholic men such as Alcuin, and with state-emperor and Church patronage, the rise of Church-funded 'public school systems', transmitted core ideas and learning to an ever-increasing mass of people. Over time the teaching of logic, philosophy, and theology, created by these schools and imparted to citizens, would fuel the growth of some of the greatest Christian thinkers ever seen, as Western European medieval society moved into the High Middle Ages in which higher mathematics and science flourished.

Without the Middle Ages we can say with certainty, that there is no modern world.