Melanchthon on Education

Quotations from Philip Melanchthon on Education

Melanchthon believed education was essential for the welfare of God’s people and the spread of the Gospel.

                                            Melanchthon believed that “learning is a blessing to the church ... and ignorance a curse because without learning, one loses the fountain of religion - the Holy Scriptures.” - Melanchthon: The Quiet Reformer, Clyde Leonard Manschreck, Abingdon Press,  ©1958, page 146

                                            Melanchthon wrote, “Only through the maintenance of learning can religion and good government endure, and God demands that children be brought up in virtue and piety.” - Melanchthon: The Quiet Reformer, Clyde Leonard Manschreck, Abingdon Press,  ©1958, page 134

                                            “Melanchthon regarded learning as a tool needed to recover the Word of God which was in its purest form encased in languages that could be learned only by diligent study of a number of subjects. [He wrote], ‘Without an understanding of language, one cannot read the Old and New Testaments; and to understand languages one needs all sorts of related knowledge in history, geography, chronology, and other liberal arts.’” - Melanchthon: The Quiet Reformer, Clyde Leonard Manschreck, Abingdon Press,  ©1958, page 146

Melanchthon became known as “the Preceptor of Germany” because of his work to build and restore schools. Below is a description of the “Saxon School Plan.” It is thoroughly classical in its pedagogy.

“Melanchthon said that Latin rather than a variety of languages should be taught, that teachers should concentrate on a few books rather than a great many, and that children should be classified according to ability.
“The first group - The first group should consist of those children who are learning to read. With these the following method is to be adopted: They are first to be taught the child’s manual, containing the alphabet, the creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and other prayers. When they have done this, Donatus and Cato may both be given them. They should be exercised until they can read well. ... With this they should be taught to write, and be required to show their writing to the schoolmaster every day. Another mode of enlarging their knowledge of Latin is to give them every afternoon some words to commit to memory, as has been the custom in schools hitherto. These children must likewise be kept at music, and be made to sing with the others.
“The second group - The second group consists of children who have learned to read, and are now ready to go into grammar. ... The first hour after noon every day all the children, large and small, should be practiced in music. Then the schoolmaster must interpret to the second group the fables of Aesop. After Vespers, he should explain to them the Paedology of Mosellanus, and select from the Colloquies of Erasmus some that may conduce to their improvement and discipline.
“This should be repeated the next evening and the children given some sort sentences before going home at night. In the morning Melanchthon would have the children again explain Aesop’s fables and decline words in accordance with their progress.
“After the children learn the rules of construction, he would have them drilled in diagramming, etymology, syntax, and prosody, until they understand grammar to perfection. “For if their is negligence here, there is neither certainty nor stability in whatever is learned beside. And the children should learn by heart and repeat all the rules, so that they may be driven and forced, as it were, to learn the grammar well.”
“If such labor is irksome to the schoolmaster, as we often see, then we should dismiss him, and get another in his place, - one who will not shrink from the duty of keeping his pupils constantly in the grammar. For no greater injury can befall learning and the arts than for youth to grow up in ignorance of grammar.”
“It is essential that children be taught the rudiments of the Christian and divine life, and likewise there are many reasons why, with the Scriptures, other books, too, should be laid before them, out of which they may learn to read. And in this matter we propose the following method: Let the schoolmaster hear the whole group, making them, one after the other, repeat the Lord’s Prayer, the creed, and the ten commandments. But if the group is too large, it may be divided, so that one week one part may recite, and the remaining part the next.
“After one recitation, the master should explain in a simple and correct manner the Lord’s prayer, the creed, and at another time the ten commandments. And he should impress upon the children the essentials, such as fear of God, faith, and good works.
“Simple psalms that contain the substance of the Christian life, such as psalms 34, 112, 125, 127, 128, and 133, should be memorized and simply expounded.
“The third group - Now, when these children have been well trained in grammar, those among them who have made the greatest proficiency should be taken out, and formed into the third group. The hour after mid-day, they, together with the rest, are to devote to music.
“After this the teacher should explain Virgil, Ovid, and Cicero. Grammar exercises should be continued until the students can compose verses, and then the grammar studies should be gradually displaced by logic and rhetoric. All should be rigidly confined to Latin, even the teachers.
“Certain aspects of this school plan should be noted for their intrinsic value: Teachers should be well trained and interested in their work, even in routine grammar drilling. They should explain simply and clearly the materials at hand without trying to display their own erudition. They curriculum should be simple, in the Latin gymnasia consisting almost entirely of Latin grammar and literature. Books required of the students should be few in number, so that the students will not be discouraged by too much work. To lighten the activities of the day immediately after lunch music should be given. And the goal of the schools should be clear - to teach the rudiments of reading and writing, and to train the abler students to use the basic tools to further their education for higher service in the church or government. The three basic groups were to be formed on the ground of ability, progress, and age, and several years were required to cover all three classes.” - Melanchthon: The Quiet Reformer, Clyde Leonard Manschreck, Abingdon Press, pages 140-142