Renaissance Education

The Renaissance was a time of change. It began in Italy during the 14th century, and spread throughout the North. People all over Europe were affected, for the better and for the worse. Some people finally had a chance to control their own fate. Others, like upper class women, lost their social status. The values and purposes of Renaissance education were to improve the society, increase the economy, and restore the religious beliefs.

The social lives of people were greatly influenced by advancements in education during the Renaissance. More people then ever before were sent to schools and educated. Schools for girls were built, and they were taught sewing, reading, writing, and dancing. Some of these schools even had teachers for singing and playing instruments. Upper class women were taught language, philosophy, theology and mathematics. But their education only prepared them for social life at home. Women lost political power, access to property and their role in shaping society.

People were taught to understand and judge the writings of others. Courtiers, aristocrats and nobles were able to write poetry and text. By being well educated, having good penmanship, knowing how to ride, play, dance, sing, and dress well, men of high status gained respect and reputation. These skills also helped attain preference and support among princes.

Nevertheless, the school system did not teach youth how to behave in daily life situations. They spent too much time on Grammar, Rhetoric, and Logic. Those studies that were realistic, enlightened mens minds, and prepared them for life, were reserved for the Universities.

Therefore, students had a slight understanding of the meaning and the true use of knowledge. They were only able to write Latin, which no one of judgement would want to read, and when they went to universities, they wasted their friends money and their own time. Afterwards, they would return home again, as unsophisticated and uneducated as they were before.

In addition, many individuals thought that having to many schools was a terrible thing. They believed that only a minority of men should study literature, because more farmers were needed than judges, more soldiers than priests, more merchants than philosophers, and more hard working groups than dreamy and thoughtful individuals. Italian humanist Piccolomini, who himself was educated, believed that philosophy and literature, should be taught to every individual, because these studies reveal the truths about the past, the reality of the present, and the prediction of the future. In his book, On the Education of Free Men, written in 1450, he wrote, where there is no literature, there is ignorance! Erasmus, a northern humanist, believed that all the knowledge within human reach lies in the literatures of ancient Greece and Rome.

Renaissance education helped increase the economy of different cities in Europe, in which the Renaissance took place. Art, a very important form of self-expression, became very popular during the Renaissance. Wealthy patrons, which were usually educated, supported artists and paid them huge salaries to do works of art. Advances in education, allowed Italians to improve their shipbuilding techniques, thus increasing trade and allowing their ships to sail all year long.

Venice traded overseas, while Genoa traded with the Middle East and Northern Europe. Knowledge of languages, penmanship, dancing, singing, and dressing well aided men of high status to great profit and honor. Florence was full of wealthy and educated merchants and bankers, who began to dominate Europes banking. As a result the economy began to grow. With a stronger and larger economy, more schools were built. With more school systems available, more children were able to receive an education, and thus more students were able to attend universities, and later on take part in this growing economy.

Renaissance education helped restore religious beliefs. At least twice a year, every priest was to give a warning to the people attending worship that they best send their children to school. Not only for learning the liberal arts, but also about discipline, virtue, and God. If this was not done, then permanent damage might have resulted to the child. As children grow up without fear and knowledge of God, they learn nothing about what is needed to achieve salvation and nothing about discipline. As a consequence, they learn nothing about what is helpful to them in life. Some men believe that learning is nourishment of the sinful nature of women. When women are taught to read the classics, these books teach them good manners. When they are taught to write, their writings should be serious sentences, which are wise and virtuous, and taken out of Holy Scripture, or are the sayings of philosophers, instead of unimportant songs.

The Renaissance was a time of change that began long ago, and has never ended since. It was a rebirth of humanistic culture and an enhancement in education. Even today, Renaissances are occurring everywhere: all over the world, in our families, and within ourselves.


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