The history of education

The model that has evolved is not designed to serve our children

The word ‘education’ comes from the latin word ‘educare’ – to draw out what lies within each pupil.

3000 years ago in Athens, famous teachers such as Socrates and Plato (like Confucius in China and Buddha in India) nurtured the human spirit by focusing on educating the individual mind, body and imagination of their students.

But nearby Sparta had plans to rule Greece and introduced compulsory education that trained children, through adversity, to shut down their hearts, deny their individuality and become highly disciplined, completely obedient soldiers. Within 300 years the Spartans ruled much of Greece and other neighbouring territories.

A few hundred years later the Romans conquered Greece and, not having a formal education system of their own, adopted Greek’s new agenda-driven model, which spread across Europe as their Empire grew.

At the fall of the Roman Empire, the Roman Catholic Church took over the role of educating the masses, teaching reading and writing to ensure adherence to its religious doctrines.

In the late 1700s, in response to Napoleon’s military success, Prussia resurrected and updated the compulsory Spartan model, to produce obedient soldiers and workers – a decision that culminated in World War II. The Prussian system instituted compulsory attendance, specific training for teachers, national testing for all students and a set national curriculum for each grade. Its tone was set by philosopher Johann Fichte in his 1807 address to the German Nation –

“The new education must consist essentially in this, that it completely destroys freedom of will in the soil which it undertakes to cultivate, and produces on the contrary strict necessity in the decisions of the will, the opposite being impossible. Such a will can henceforth be relied on with confidence and certainty.”

Governments throughout the western world quickly recognised the power of Prussia’s new education philosophy and system and introduced it to “inculcate children into patriotism and loyalty” to their own national economies.

Among current practices that originated in Sparta and Rome are:
  • Compulsory education
  • Imposition of ruling agenda at the expense of holistic personal growth
  • Restrictions, rules, regulations, rewards to control student behaviour
  • Punishment for non-compliance or poor performance
  • High status and priority given to subjects that further the ruling agenda
  • Competition and graduation tests to assess students and determine their adult social status.
  • Boarding schools
  • Memorisation of information