Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Luther's village school.

We have now started the other Brecht volumes.  I seem to be reading them simultaneously.

There is:  "Martin Luther:  The Preservation of the church. 1532-1546".  And then there also is:  "Martin Luther: His Road to Reformation.  1483-1521."

We'll share a couple little things I have highlighted so far.

Luther's opinions of his little village school in Mansfeld struck me.

Foremost among things taught in the school was grammar.  The pupils were divided into threee groups, according to the textbooks used.  The Fibulists studied from the "Fibel," the ABC book.  They were also know as Tabulists from the tables that were used.  The Donatists studied from one of the various versions of the grammar written by Aelius Donatus, a writer of late antiquity, and at first learned morphology.  ...  This material was drilled into them by means of a systematic method of questioning.  In the beginning some things were also explained in German.   The third group, the Alexandrists, studied syntax and meter according to the text which Alexander of Villa Dei had written in hexameter and which was first published in 1199.  ... Teaching according to Donatus and Alexander was later characterized by Luther as a waste of time and ineffective.  The children learned neither correct German nor Latin.  In this he was apparently criticizing the not-very-attractive Latin-German hybrid language employed by the learned, although he himself obviously used it , for example, in his Table Talk.
... Frequently, the material of instruction also contained churchly and religious elements.  Among other things the Fibulists learned the Creed and the Lord's prayer.  Surprisingly enough, Luther evaluated positively the fact that it was precisely in the small schools that the church had miraculously been preserved.   ...Music, chiefly ecclesiastical and liturgical, played a not insignificant role in school.  Instruction began and ended with a Latin hymn, usually with "Come, Thou, Holy Spirit, Come" and "Come, Holy Ghost, Our Souls Inspire."  Even in Mansfeld the teachers and students were required to participate in the ordinary and also the special services...  Thus it was in school Luther learned the antiphonal responsories of the worship services.  In this way the students were introduced to the church's liturgy, and it was through the liturgy that they were given the content of the Christian faith, which undoubtedly was not formally treated at all.
... The school did give him the ability to continue his studies.  He could study extremely efficiently and productively.  The ability to think in the Latin language, to use it and to express himself in it, he owed primarily to the school, and the university could build upon it.  Yet, on the other hand, the proper use of German was taught neither by the school nor by the university.  Luther owed his knowledge of German to the special demands of later years.  (pp. 14-15. His Road to Reformation.)

It is really quite inspiring that the village church with such humble means could inculcate some valuable skills.  The use of repetition and drilling reminds me of a good deal of my own education.  We memorized poems and hymns, lists of vocabulary, conjugations and declensions.  It is amazing what riches can really be passed on this way for future use and for future generations.  What a child needs, however, is a parent or grandparent who helps and supervises all this memory work.  Our parents used to provide this.  Now parents tend to be very busy or not value such activity and content.

My own parents were also quite poor as children attending poor schools after the war.  Memorization was the order of the day.  My father spoke about doing nothing but memorizing after the war because there were no books.  He had many wonderful and also funny things, which he could recite.

My children memorized the catechism for their classes and they also memorized the entire Suzuki syllabus for their instruments.  Children have a great ability for this which should be utilized one way or another.  Use modern technology, whatever, but keep going over it.  My little children owned a number of Disney videos.  They did not watch them a hundred times, but they had the entire dialogue and all the songs down completely.  It seemed like a marvel, at the time.  They had it word for word.

Several years, ago, there was an international study of school systems and education.  Germany did not come out anywhere near the top and people were really concerned about this.  However, some said that the German way of education is not comparable to some of the others.  It is different.  I am thinking this would be true because of the streamed system and because the higher schools emphasized a different method and content.

We can also see, how Luther's ideas for inculcating the small catechism grew out of his experience.  In the village school and through drills, the next generations thinking was formed fairly effectively; this included the use of music for content, worship and pleasure.

I have always in my mind combined the Suzuki parent experience (two children and two parents for years on end) with the idea of teaching the Lutheran/Biblical minimum.

All this can be combined with more modern methods.  But before one can progress to analytical skills, one could do well to just do some rote work.

No comments: