Renaissance Education DBQ

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The Transformation of Renaissance Education

        The Renaissance is widely viewed to be an era of immense cultural change that brought about widespread educational reforms. For the first time in history, education was considered to be an essential part of a civilized society.  According to popular thought of the early Renaissance, those who were educated in the Greek classics along with a standard knowledge of mathematics, philosophy and literature, would be those who would bring about the advancement of human civilization. However, as the Renaissance progressed, the popularity of education abruptly declined, and education once again became a luxury meant only for a chosen few. Renaissance education evolved from being a “guide to the true meaning of the past” and the key to a well-balanced gentleman, to a luxury “appropriate only to a small minority of men” (Document 1, Document 11).

        At the start of the Renaissance, education was considered to be a necessity for all those who wished to attain some degree of status in society. Aeneas Pickling wrote in 1450 that education was the method through which to achieve the “enlightenment of the mind”.   In addition to the studies of mathematics, philosophy and literature, the rise of humanism in the Renaissance contributed to an increased awareness of previous civilizations. The study of humanities was considered essential to instill the ideals and activities of a refined individual (Document 2). It was only through the keen observation and study of the past, it was held, that could prevent a recurrence into the Dark Ages. Baldassare Castiglione, an Italian diplomat, wrote that a noble must have both a keen understanding of the past, along with an ability to write proficiently. By studying the writings of ancient Greece and Rome, one could extract a great deal of knowledge, and as such, Renaissance education tended to focus on the dissection of such works (Document 4). It was through such study that one would establish “dignity and reputation” (Document 6). Thus, at the early onset of the Renaissance, education was considered an essential determinant of social stature, and the gateway to success.

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        As the Renaissance progressed, the notion of education as previously defined in the period changed dramatically. Contrary to preceding thought, education should focus on that which is “useful in worldly life.” By focusing too much on the liberal arts, “permanent harm” could result to a student not trained with virtue and discipline (Document 7). Michel de Montaigne called the educational system “absurd” and that rather than focusing on works with “the soundest and truest opinions”, education had instead revolved around the works “which speak the best Greek and Latin” (Document 8). This is a clear change from the attitude of ...

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