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Friday, September 21, 2012

Most Important People Of The Past 1000 Years

To get to the roots of Noah Webster’s convictions about the purpose of education in America, we have to go back further, to some truly radical voices preceding him, upon whose shoulders Webster stood.

When the popular television series Biography, which airs on the Arts and Entertainment channel, addressed the question of the most important people of the past 1000 years, they placed Johann Gutenberg first, Isaac Newton second, and Martin Luther third. In the 1997 millennium issue of Life magazine, Martin Luther was also named the third most important person of the millennium, behind Thomas Edison and Christopher Columbus. When members of the Religion Newswriters Association (reporters and editors writing for the secularized media) were asked to vote for the most significant religious story in the past 1000 years, the event coming out on top was Martin Luther's nailing 95 theses to a Wittenberg church door, in 1517, which “sparked a Protestant Reformation whose results are still being felt."

Most people know of Luther’s herculean efforts to reform the Church of the 1500s. But, as Vishal Mangalwadi points out in The Book that Made Your World: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization, Luther also called for a complete overhaul of medieval education. In “An Open Letter to the Christian Nobility,” Luther said: “I believe there is no work more worthy of pope or emperor than a thorough reform of the universities. And on the other hand, nothing could be more devilish or disastrous than unreformed universities.” [Emphasis mine.]

Luther said the Church-owned-and-operated Renaissance universities were “places for training of youth in the fashions of Greek culture,” where “little is taught of the Holy Scriptures and Christian faith, and where only the blind, heathen teacher Aristotle rules far more than Christ.”

Luther maintained that Aristotle’s books "Physics, Metaphysics, Concerning the Soul, and Ethics, which hitherto have been thought to be his best books, should be completely discarded along with all the rest of his books that boast about nature, although nothing can be learned from them either about nature or the Spirit.” Luther, who knew and taught Aristotle himself, would only keep Aristotle’s Logic, Rhetoric and Poetics—without commentaries. He wanted the Bible to be the center of the curriculum.

But Luther had his hands full reforming the Church. The reformation of education fell upon one coming after him, born in 1592, in Moravia.    

Martin Luther, holding The Book that made our world,
called for a complete overhaul of medieval education.
"Nothing," said Luther, "could be more devilish or
disasterous than unreformed universities."