Middle Agesand The RenaissanceIn many eras, events happened as a reaction,and often an overreaction, to events of the prior era. In the MiddleAges, a proper education was extremely rare for the common people. As a reaction to the Middle Ages, in the early renaissance, there was astrong focus on a classical education consisting of Greek, Latin, the classics,and art. As the population and economy grew and books became more readilyavailable, people became disillusioned with the impractical classical education,demanding an education leading to practical professions. In the early renaissance, emphasis wasredirected from clerical to secular life.
The secular humanist ideaheld that the church should not rule civic matters, but should guide onlyspiritual matters. The church disdained the accumulation of wealth andworldly goods, supported a strong but limited education, and believed thatmoral and ethical behavior was dictated by scripture. Humanists,however, believed that wealth enabled them to do fine, noble deeds, thatgood citizens needed a good, well-rounded education, and that moral andethical issues were related more to secular society than to spiritual concerns. Humanists paid close attention to classical studies because most of thehumanist philosophy was based on Greek and Roman ideas.
In addition tothe study of Latin and Greek, a classical education consisted of scientificmatters, government, rhetoric, philosophy and art. In the Middle Ages, the church discouragededucation to keep people under the control of the church. Peoplewere guided by the teachings of the church and had little opinion to whatwas being told to them. Books were also very costly and were mostlywritten in Latin, an unfamiliar language to the common people. Peoplewere taught Greek and Latin so that they could understand the books availableto them. In 1445, Gutenberg invented the printing press, making booksmore plentiful and therefore affordable for the educated middle class.
They also began printing books in European languages. By the late stages of the renaissance,the population started to rise dramatically and the economy started toboom. With a larger population, more merchants and tradesman andother people with practical skills were needed. With books more readilyavailable, people demanded books in the many languages of Europe. As a result, the concentration in education focused on local languages,practical mathematics, science and trades. Although the renaissance reversed the practicesof medieval times by restoring education in the classics and gave rebirthto independent thought, the masses demanded a redirection of educationto practical and useful skills.
The focus on humanism forced theChurch to play a secondary role in peoples’ lives. Despite the changesin education and philosophy during the renaissance, Europe eventually moldeditself into a well-rounded society.