Joseph Kinmont Hart.

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cial order and political life remained. The church was
taken over speedily by the conquerors; Roman law had
been codified at Constantinople and was thus saved for the
future of the world-civilization ; the scientific knowledge of
the Greeks was not wholly lost or forgotten ; the practical
arts of the South, developed far beyond the levels of Teu-
tonic knowledge, were preserved in the industries of the
common people which went on still, although the world
was being turned upside down.

Thus these mighty types of energy and life met each
other the Roman, organized, fixed, substantial, massive,
impressive, with the suggestion of eternality, of preexist-
ence about it; the Teutonic, fluid, crude, unorganized, un-
substantial, unconscious of its strength, but strong beyond
the strength of age: "fresh blood and youthful mind."
The latter, untutored, almost pathetically submits itself to
the instruction of the former, and for a thousand years,
more or less, steadily and readily sits at the feet of the
wisdom of the South. And the older civilization, haughty
in its consciousness of a mighty past, feels confident that,
though conquered in battles and overrun of territory, its
intellectual and spiritual superiority still promise eventual
victory. The anarchy of the barbarian must yield at last
to the order and control of the fixed system of the Empire.

But is it fanciful to connect this irruption of fresh, even
barbaric, energy with the energies of primitive Christian-
ity, with the simple social logic of Socrates? Each of
these movements entered a protest against the acceptance


of a "closed world," a world of fixed, unchanging institu-
tions, an absolute domain of "eternal ideas." Each seems
to reveal the existence of something living in human life,
something more permanent than institutions, more funda-
mental than ideas, stronger than the mighty machinery
of a world-empire.

If this be so, we shall find herein the clue to the gather-
ing of forces in the great medieval period. On the one
hand we shall find the gathering of the systematized, the
organized energies of the world; the traditional, the cus-
tomary, the habitual tendencies; the political systems, the
religious organizations, the social stratifications; and
around all these the protecting care of a great philosophical
development, the Platonic doctrine of the absolute order of
the world which, accepted as the official philosophy of the
church, will attempt to control with ruthless exactness the
life of the individual both here and hereafter. And for
its greater assurance this absolute control of life and des-
tiny will organize an elaborate system of education within
which all anarchic impulses, all individual energies, all
originalities, will be carefully denied. Thus will the
"larger folkways of medievalism" come gradually to com-

On the other hand we shall find occasional expression of
that deeper energy of the world. The individuality, the
democracy, the progressiveness of the Teuton, the emo-
tional values of primitive Christianity, the social intelli-
gence urged by Socrates, have not vanished from the earth ;
they are germinating beneath the soil of old civilizations,
gaining strength for the conflicts that will surely come.
Occasionally during these "dark ages" they try to meas-
ure strength with the forces of control, but a thousand
years must intervene, a thousand years of schooling, of
discipline, before they are really ready for the conflict.


But considering both aspects of this situation the ques-
tion of the future arises : In the days when Roman civili-
zation was being buffeted by Teutonic barbarism, where
was the hope of the future, the hope of civilization? Was
it back with the older culture, the older civilization? Or
was it with the new energy, with the "fresh blood and
youthful mind"?

And where, in any generation, is the supreme hope of the
future ? In the fixed institutions of that generation, in the
finished ideals and ideas of the times, in the orthodox sys-
tems? Or in the energies, the impulses, the aspirations,
the enthusiasms of the "fresh blood and youthful mind"?
In educational efforts, where is the real hope of the future ?
In the school as a fixed institution, with its conventional
tasks, its routine methods, and its accepted folkways? Or
in the children of the new generation who come to call in
question all conventional tasks, all routine methods, all ac-
cepted folkways?

The history of education knows no more important ques-
tion than this. Indeed, it may turn out that the history
of education is just the endless effort to answer this ques-
tion, now in this way, now in that. For the world seems
not long contented with either sort of answer. At any
rate, however strange the contrast may appear, the great
world-argument gathers through the Middle Ages, ready to
develop into the modern world-problem. On the one hand
is the principle of growth represented by such seemingly
disparate factors as the work of Socrates in individual
experience, the movement of primitive Christianity in the
world's moral life, and the destructive effects of the bar-
baric invasions; on the other, hand, the mechanisms of
institutionalism, whether in church, in state, in the social
and industrial order, or in the pedantic thinking of the
age. These are the antagonists in the slowly-gathering


world-argument. Growth versus finished social mechan-
ism! Development versus final folkway! Attention, in-
novation, invention versus habit and tradition ! This shall
be a battle worthy the attention of the ages.



WE have seen how Plato, caught in the drift of events
that marked the period of disintegration of Greek political
and social life, proposed to his age the magnificent hy-
pothesis of an eternal world of ideas, the real world, change-
less behind all changes in the world of experience, preex-
istent, the form or pattern of all earthly things, determin-
ing and controlling the nature and destiny of all human
activities and institutions. We have seen how this concep-
tion fitted into the political structure of the Roman Empire
in its march toward world-control; how out of this union
of the Greek idea and the Roman political structure the
all-inclusive Greco-Roman Empire came into being an ab-
solute political empire which gradually absorbed all lesser
political efforts into itself, an absolute intellectual empire
which gradually triumphed over all protests and became
the arbiter of all beliefs. We have seen how primitive
Christianity was conquered and remade to fit the absolute
intellectualism of this empire, although something of its
primitive rebelliousness remained hidden under the surface
of its outward conformings. And finally we have seen how
the invading Teuton, who came destroying all before him,
remained to wonder, to revere, and to sit modestly at the
feet of this old system for a thousand years, even though
he still kept his innermost nature concealed under the robes
of his curiosity and his reverence.

We have now to face this period of a thousand years of



conflict between order and disorder, between the estab-
lished, though somewhat mutilated, forms of a preexistent
civilization and the undisciplined energies of many primi-
tive peoples who seem to pour through the centuries in an
endless stream. "We must consider how this old system of
universal order gradually "harmonized" and "absorbed"
all these diverse and discordant elements until it reached
at length a magnificent culmination, religious, political,
economic, moral, social, and intellectual, in the mighty
thirteenth century and gave complete form to the most
splendid organization of this one of the two fundamental
interpretations of human life that the world has ever seen
or is likely to see. But the story is long and the details
endless ; hence we must give the outlines only, emphasizing
the important forces and tendencies.

The Uncertainties of the Middle Ages. If proof were
needed of our earlier proposal that "the race is educated
by its experiences," such proof could be found in over-
whelming measure in the story of the Middle Ages. It
was a long period of terrible uncertainties. Consider
these typical "uncertainties":

(a) The Invasions. Beginning with the coming of the
Huns from the East, there was almost no century for a
thousand years that did not know the terrors of threat-
ened or actual invasion. The Huns, the various Germanic
tribes, the Saracens, Hungarians, Northmen and Normans,
Seljukian Turks, Tartars and Mongols of the Golden
Horde, Ottoman Turks, they follow fast on each other's
heels, some to destroy and run away, some to remain and
to help to build.

On helm and harness rings the Saxon hammer,

Through Cimbric forest roars the Norseman's song,

And loud amid the universal clamor

O'er distant deserts sounds the Tartar gong.


It is not to be wondered at that out of these experiences
some still echo the prayer taught in the midst of terror:
"From the fury of the Northmen, Lord, deliver us!" x

(b) Hungers and famines. Agriculture was still ex-
tremely primitive and with the great masses of the people
hunger was constant, while actual famines were not un-
known. The peasant was "bound to the wheel of labor"
and had to take the brunt of every untoward condition,
including the lessening of food supplies. Burdened with
a social structure expressing a certain Platonic complete-
ness, "what to him were Plato and the swing of Pleiades?"

(c) Diseases and epidemics. Modern ideas of sanita-
tion were unknown. The minglings of the peoples devel-
oped conditions for contagions, and epidemics of various
kinds always menaced the peoples and occasionally swept
away great numbers of the population. For example, the
"Black Death" swept away two-thirds of the population
in certain provinces of France in the years 1349-50; but
this was "only the most terrible of many plagues which
devastated Europe in the Middle Ages."

(d) Social unrest. Growing out of the uncertainties of
common life, the hungers and famines, the pestilence and
contagions, and the endless economic miseries, the Middle
Ages experienced many actual or threatened "revolts" of
the peasantry. As early as during the reign of Diocletian
(284-305 A.D.) these revolts were known, and all through
the Middle Ages they continued at intervals. The most
famous and most effective, coming as they did in the very
dawn of the modern period, were the rising of the "Jac-
querie" in France (1358) and the "Peasants' Revolt"
under John Ball and Wat Tyler in England (1381).

(e) Lesser and greater warfares. The feudal system
was ostensibly a system established in the interest of peace

i Robinson, "Readings in European History," Vol. I; Ch. VIII.


and social order, but both within and without it tended to
the promotion of disorder. The overlord must fight con-
tinuously to keep the upper hand of his vassals within the
system, and continuous fighting went on between the vari-
ous overlords and between the various racial and national
groups. Efforts were made to secure peace by such means
as the "Truce of God."

(f) Fears of the supernatural. Credulity was the
chief characteristic of the mental life of the period, and
constantly renewed prophecies of the imminent "end of
the world" stirred, thrilled, and in a sense paralyzed the
activities of the successive generations; but they seemed to
leave each new generation as credulous as its predecessor.
In some real measure these supernatural fears led to the
enthusiasms that attended the Crusades, and the endless
promises of absolution and the like played into and fed
these credulous enthusiasms.

(g) Intellectual uncertainties. Though in the earlier
centuries of the Middle Ages credulity, and therefore in-
tellectual certainty, was the characteristic, in the later cen-
turies came a gradual disillusionment, especially among
the Teutonic peoples of the North. This was the promise
of the eventual development of science. Little by little
this intellectual uncertainty gnawed at the foundation of
the Medieval system until it broke through. But for cen-
turies this intellectual uncertainty was the possession of a
very few.

The Certainties and Securities of the Period. In
the struggles which the old social order of the South waged
against these desperate uncertainties of the Middle Ages,
real principles were at stake social order, established and
secure, versus anarchy, savagery, "the return into the
brute." There could have been no continuous fight
against such overwhelming odds had not the old civilization


of the South been sustained by fundamental "certainties"
and securities. What were some of these ?

(a) The church and the religious organization. Here
was a practical retreat from the turbulence of the times.
The churches, monasteries, convents, and hermitages pre-
served old learnings, kept alive the love of knowledge,
nurtured human hopes in quiet, improved modes of indus-
try, arbitrated quarrels, and conserved the promise of a
nobler age to be.

(b) The hope of eternal security. The church could
offer one other motive for standing by the older order: it
held the keys to the gates of eternity, that real world
(Plato's heaven, now Christianized into Augustine's "City
of God") which was to be the "happy home" of all the
faithful, the "fatherland" of the soul. This belief found
expression in many hymns, e.g., "Jerusalem my Happy

(c) The feudal system. For a time this system seemed
to promise complete security and order, and its develop-
ment in England did secure probably as great degree of
order as the diverse conditions of the age could afford.
But on the whole, as we have seen, the feudal system was
but a temporary expedient, productive of mighty evils
with which modern social hopes have had to wage continu-
ous warfare.

(d) The survivals of Roman law. Deeper than the ex-
pedients of the feudal system, though not fully realized or
understood, lay the fundamentals of social order in the
conceptions of Roman law. This was now, of course, an
absolute system of law, not generally operative, but codi-
fied and complete; but a complete system was what the
Middle Ages wanted.

(e) A great literature. The central element here was
the Bible. But certain other materials were orthodox,


especially the writings of the "fathers," and these helped
to sustain the courage of the age, though of course very
little of this was in the possession of the common people.

(f) The conception of authority. The whole trend of
history to the height of the Middle Ages emphasized the
doctrine of one "lasting, universal, supreme authority to
which the civilized world owed obedience."

The Growth of the Medieval System. Medievalism is
the culmination of many lines of development and their
convergence into a superficially consistent social and in-
tellectual whole. In the midst of the terrific uncertainties
of the whole period the longing for order became the most
persistent human motive. Augustine had set forth the
ideal in his impressive descriptions of the ' ' City of God. ' '
The gradual developments of centralized authority and
control, the building of permanent cities as centers of
civilization, the adjustment of social conditions so that
fixed status became more universal, the subordination of all
critical intelligence to the eternal realities of the faith
all these details, and many more, show the universal long-
ings for order. It was indeed an age of endless contrasts
in every aspect of existence. But the souls of the noblest
spirits longed and worked for order, a permanent and final
order. This is what Greek intellect had tried to create;
it was what Roman law had stood for ; it was the deep ex-
pectation of Hebrew piety. And now, throughout this
period, all logical powers, all pious hopes, and all practical
administrative activities were turned in this same direc-

But the Platonic conception of the world failed to com-
plete what it had begun. Rather, that diluted doctrine
known as Neoplatonism, which had largely taken the place
of the original, failed to carry out the promise ; or, it may
be, there was too much of Socrates in Plato. At any rate,


the unrest of the eleventh and twelfth centuries, with their
Crusades, their contacts with many ancient peoples and
types of civilization, especially that of the Arabs, with the
growth of national aims and the development of commer-
cial activities these tendencies proved too much for the
strength of the Platonic doctrine, and civilization was near
to disintegration. But a new tool was at hand. Aris-
totle, lost for more than a thousand years, Aristotle "the
conservative and the definer of what is," came to the res-
cue of the distracted social world. Brought back to the
West by the Saracens, Aristotle first frightened the leaders
of the church; he seemed all that a philosopher of Chris-
tendom should not be. But when it became apparent,
through further study of his words, that Aristotle had no
prejudices for or against any particular doctrine or creed,
that he was primarily a logic, a way of looking at the world,
the church turned to him with gratitude. Aristotle became
the absolute intellectual dictator of the culminating period
of the Middle Ages. He set the bounds to human think-
ing. Hitherto there had been no recognized authority in
the intellectual world. Plato was never an authority, but
only a dominating influence. Hence, up to this time mental
life had had some free play. "By establishing now the
supreme authority of Aristotle in every sphere to which
reasoning applies the natural world as well as the meta-
physical and by interpreting Aristotle in her own way, a
tool was at hand for holding reason in check, without at the
same time denying it its rights. Aristotle was himseU
identical with reason, not to be denied or questioned,
Even in science, the question was, not what does nature re<
veal, but what does Aristotle say ; and when science began
to emerge, the authority of the philosopher was actively
used to check its growth. ' ' *

i Rogers: "A Student's History of Philosophy," p. 215.


Educational Developments of the Middle Ages. No
fundamental scientific progress was made in a thousand
years of such life; but educational developments of pro-
found significance for all subsequent ages occurred.
These, too, we must note in outline in order to properly
appreciate their scope.

(a) Various "revivals of learning." Though learning
languished, it never really perished. Revivals took place
under Julian (361-363), under Charlemagne (771-814),
and in the thirteenth century as a part of the culmination
of the developing folkways of the Middle Ages.

(b) Monastic influences in education. But the real
preservation of the learning of the world was due to the
influences of the monastic life. This was a universal char-
acteristic of the whole period from the fourth to the thir-
teenth century and later. Monasteries, with all their in-
fluences and accessories, good, bad, and neutral, were
found from the north of Scotland to the far Orient ; teach-
ers and clergy and "brothers" were found in desert and
forest and city street; and almost all sorts of doctrines,
not utterly unorthodox, came from the monasteries. The
social and educational ideal of the monasteries was an
ascetic discipline fasting, scourging the flesh, reducing
the bodily wants to a minimum, destroying the natural
appetites, the discipline of the "carnal man" for the sake
of growth in moral and spiritual power. The vows of the
monastic were chastity, poverty, and obedience, thus deny-
ing the significance of the family, industry, and political
institutions. Monastic life was completely dominated by
the "rules of St. Benedict." Work and study made up
the day's routine. Study became centralized in the
monasteries. They became the schools, the teacher-train-
ing institutions, the universities. Books were copied here
and libraries were slowly built up. They were the re-


treats of the scholars and the centers of practically all edu-
cational effort.

(c) The "Seven Liberal Arts." The learning of the
past came to the Middle Ages in an organized form, worked
over by the scholars of the very late classical period and
called ' ' The Seven Liberal Arts. ' ' These ' ' arts ' ' included
the old trivium (grammar, rhetoric, and dialectic) and the
quadrivium (arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy).
Of course these terms included a wider content than they
do at present. 1

(d) Scholasticism. The methods and forms of civiliza-
tion in these ages came, as we have seen, from the old in-
tellectual and institutional life of the Greeks and Romans;
but the materials of the new social development were found
in the tremendous diversities of the races and peoples of
the age. The task of organizing all these strange, new
materials into the old forms, of cramming the old catego-
ries with these new contents, of filling the ''old bottles"
with this ' ' new wine, ' ' was no easy task ; and it called for
the development of the highest powers of subtle dialectic.
"Scholasticism" is the outcome. In ordinary school his-
tories scholastic dialectic is usually ridiculed, being por-
trayed as concerned with such amusing subjects as "How
many angels can stand on the point of a needle?" But
in reality the scholastic development is the actual organi-
zation of all the intellectual forces of the old order in
preparation for the life and death struggle with the new
order that is to come : and there is nothing amusing about
getting ready for a life and death struggle, though there
is something very exhilarating about it.

(e) The universities. Scholastic discussions centered
gradually at certain rather strategic places. Bologna in
the south, under the leadership of Irnerius, became the most

iSee Abelson: "The Seven Liberal Arts."


famous center of legal learning (about 1100-1130). Paris,
under the inspiration of the rather unorthodox teachings of
Abelard, became the chief center of theological learning
and discussion (about the middle of the twelfth century) ;
and before the end of the thirteenth century Europe had
fourteen universities. The universities soon became the
possessors of a monopoly of the teaching function ; and the
question may well be raised whether their chief function
was the development of knowledge, or the control of knowl-
edge in the interest of existing conditions. The fact that
the universities developed at those places and under those
conditions where great social conflicts were impending
seems to indicate that their major function was the control
of learning in the interest of established conditions.

(f) Chivalry. Warfare tore young men from their life
in settled society and sent them out to the freedom of the
battle and the march. Especially did the Crusades tend
to liberate young men from all the constraints that the
established social system of Europe had so carefully devel-
oped. Young soldiers, returning from contacts with the
institutions of other lands and with years of freedom from
conventional restraints, could prove and did prove to be
very real dangers to the established social order. Hence
society must educate its future soldiers to implicit belief
in the established social order and an acceptance of that
social order as the final organization of civilization before
they set out on their travels. The educational system of
"chivalry" accomplished this. Young men destined to be
knights were completely habituated to the existent order,
and they swore by holy vows to help maintain the system,
despite all disillusioning experiences elsewhere.

Thus we can see that through all the obvious educational
institutions and influences of the age men were being
habituated to the accepted social order. Education was the


accomplished "handmaiden" of civilization and men were
trained to "fit into the system." Through industry, civic
life, religious institution, and educational effort there ran
one single, motive: the salvation of civilization is in the
conformity of the individual; hence all educational aims

Online LibraryJoseph Kinmont HartDemocracy in education; → online text (page 11 of 31)