Social and Cultural Foundations of American Education/History/17th Century
We are now in the 21st century yet the markers, those items that influenced the advancement of education, and ideas of education are the same as the 17th century with only slightly different instruments. The teachings and technological advances have changed drastically, but the ideas and concepts that have led us to this place are what the educators of the 17th century also fought for. As you begin your career as a teacher, do not think that you are alone in wanting to change the way society views education because it has been a battle for centuries. The concept of education reform was very much alive during the 17th century when educators developed new ways of thinking about education. Many of these ideas were born in Britain and carried over to America during the 1600s. These ideas can still be seen today across America only with advancements. The concerns and desires that you have for your classroom are the same as the educators of the 17th century. The markers of the 17th century were the changes in education to the areas of secondary education, teaching of young children by means of sight and senses, broadening of curriculum, and the teaching that knowledge is power. With these markers came the advancements in many areas that are still being advanced upon today. The desires of the 17th century educators are the same that teachers of today possess, or we would not have signed up to teach the “power of knowledge”.
Knowledge is Power
The movement that taught “knowledge is power” is Empiricism. Wikipedia describes empiricism as a theory of knowledge emphasizing the role of experience. This experience comes from experiments and observations using the senses. This is definitely a change from past education when strict memorization and structure were the basis for teaching. Empiricism allowed a child to play an active role in their own learning and learn from their experiences using their senses. John Locke was an advocate for empiricism and wrote An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, where he explained his views on human learning. Locke wrote that we are born with a blank mind and therefore must gain all knowledge and the only way to gain this knowledge is through experiences (Uzgalis). Locke claimed that “There is nothing in the mind that was not first in the senses”, and this belief that experiences taught children knowledge lead to education by nature and the real world (Carlile). Locke also introduced the idea that one must first learn the simple ideas and then combine them to gain the more complex ideas; to gain these simple ideas as children in the form of reading, writing, and math gradually and cumulatively (Gutek). Locke desired for each student to search after truth rather than simply accepting the opinion of others (Uzgalis). Is this not the real power of knowledge, for teachers to give students the basis of learning and then watch them discover on their own the complex ideas of knowledge? Francis Bacon also supported the empiricist movement and is given credit for coining the phrase “Knowledge is power” and agreed with Locke that the senses were the only way to search into and discover truth (Landry). Bacon felt that the importance of man was directly rooted in nature.
Expansion of Curriculum
These teachings were more readily available thanks to another important marker of the 17th century, the printing press, which allowed the expansion of printed materials including textbooks. If knowledge is power, then the printing press helped give power to the people. The printing press of the 17th century was a less expensive type-face that reduced the cost of production. It not only resulted in a variety of printed material but preceded the Civil War in England (Griscom). This knowledge gave the people power to question their own government and publication laws were relaxed. This new found freedom allowed the printing of more material and resulted in many more textbooks during the later 17th century, the New England Primer being one of them.
The expansion of curriculum and educational sources did not stop at textbooks; the Education Acts of the 1600s were a large marker of education. The Acts required that a school be established and a suitable teacher found for each area, and later required a schoolhouse and wages for that teacher. Mathematics also became a large part of education during the 17th century and had such advocates as Isaac Watts and Philip Dodderidge and was taught at universities such as Cambridge and Oxford. Watts believed that mathematics should have a place in the curriculum (O’Conner). It seems that the educators of the 17th century fought for textbooks and mathematics the way educators of today fight for computers and technology in each classroom.
Appealing to Student Senses
To learn more about Orbis Pictus and see the methods used to revise it click here:http://imaginarymuseum.org/OPR/OPRWAAGE.HTM
Educators of today introduce technology into the classroom through computer videos and programs to open a child’s mind to learning by appealing to their senses. John Amos Comenius did the same thing in the 17th century by introducing the first picture textbook, Orbis Pictus. Comenius, called the Father of Modern Education, felt that children should be treasured and taught on their level by uniting words and pictures to appeal to the child’s physical senses and to present new information from the simple to the complex (Kytka). Comenius’ modern view of the education of children is highly accepted today evident in the teaching of children through the physical senses. The video or clip art used in today’s classroom curriculum is obviously used to appeal to a student’s senses and heighten their interest in a subject. It is no wonder that Orbis Pictus was used for over 200 years.
As the education of children grew so did secondary education and a big marker in America was when the Pilgrims established new schools on new soil. This growth brought about the establishment of Harvard, “the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States”. In 1636, Harvard opened the doors to nine students and a single instructor. John Harvard, for whom the school is named, left half his estate and his library to the school. Harvard claimed in 1643, to exist “to advance Learning and perpetuate it to Posterity” (Harvard.edu).
|Harvard was established “to advance Learning and perpetuate it to Posterity”. I wonder how the founders would feel about this video clip. Enjoy! http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=7874017968086897778&q=%22harvard%22&hl=en|
With the opening of Harvard the growth of education exceeded the basic principles and sought to teach students at a higher level. The 21st century brings us to a point where there are a number of different colleges and universities with a multitude of offered classes. The beginning of higher learning in America started with ten people striving for more knowledge.
The 17th century was a time of individuals striving for more knowledge, and all with the belief that with this gain of knowledge meant power: power of mind, power of self, power of country. As teachers, this is the power we wish to give to our students, the power of knowledge. To teach students to use their senses in searching out the interesting simple ideas, allowing those ideas to grow into complex ideas, and going on to higher forms of education wishing only for more learning. The uses of markers such as: the picture textbook, the printing press, the laws of Education, and the establishment of higher learning led the 17th century into a reform of education. Let us hope that we strive to secure markers in order to allow our students to gain power through knowledge the way the reformers of the 17th century did.
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- Carlile, Orison and Anne Jordan. “It Works In Practice But Will It Work In Theory? The Theoretical Underpinnings Of Pedagogy: Empiricism”. http://www.aishe.org/readings/2005-1/carlile-jordan-IT_WORKS_IN_PRACTICE_BUT_WILL_IT_WORK_IN_THEORY.pdf#search=%22pedagogy%20carlile%22
- Griscom, Amanda. “Treands of Anarchy and Hierarchy: Comparing the Cultural Repercussions of Print and Digital Media” http://www.cyberartsweb.org/cpace/infotech/asg/ag14.html
- Gutek, Gerald. “History of Education: Educatinal Theory in the 17th Century”. MSN Encarta. http://encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_761561415_3/History_of_Education.html
- Kytka. Kytka’s Picks. “John Amos Comenius – Father of Modern Education”. http://www.waldorfhomeschoolers.com/comenius.htm
- Landry, Peter. Biographies. “Francis Bacon: The Secretary of Nature” http://www.blupete.com/Literature/Biographies/Philosophy/Bacon.htm
- O’Conner, J. J. and E. F. Robertson. “The teaching of mathematics in Britain in the Seventeenth Century”. http://turnbull.mcs.st-and.ac.uk/~history/Education/seventeenthc.html
- Stevens, Byron. “The Seventeenth Century and Education”. http://www.education.umn.edu/EdPA/iconics/reading%20room/8.htm
- The Harvard Guide. “The Early History of Harvard University”. http://www.hno.harvard.edu/guide/intro/index.html
- Uzgalis, William. “John Locke” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/locke/
- Wikipedia. “Epistemology” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epistemology