This post will take a brief look at the life and educational views of Philip Melancthon (1497-1560) a highly influential protestant reformer in Germany.
Life of Melacthon
Melanchthon was considered by many to be a highly gifted prodigy. In addition to his mother tongue of German, Melanchthon was a master of Greek and Latin to a level that astonished his teachers.
In 1512, at the age of 15, Melanchthon did not start college, rather he would finish college. This means that he probably started university studies at 11-12 years of age. He was also supposed to receive his master degree but the university may him wait because of his age.
In 1518, Melancthon begins teaching and of course, was a phenomenal teacher. His primary field was theology and Greek but he was formidable in other areas as well. It was at this point in his life that Melancthon would become friends with Martin Luther, the reformer.
Melancthon was also a prodigious writer of books. He wrote on various subjects including Greek, Latin, ethics, logic, rhetoric, physics, and theology. Some of the textbooks he wrote were so good that they were used for almost 100 years. A feat that is impossible to with the speed at which new knowledge now develops.
Views on Education
Melancthon believed in leading by example and that attitude was contagious. Target students to study teacher needed to have energy and enthusiasm for the subject. Melancthon was a voracious student and at times this infected his students as well.
Melancthon also developed what is now known as the “Saxony Plan.” This plan was a brief philosophy of education with three tenets.
- Teachers should not teach children several languages at the same time. This is overwhelming for the child. Instruction in Germany should first be focused on Latin.
- Teachers should not teach too many subjects. This also is damaging to the student.
- Development of different levels or classes should be used. Melancthon, in particular, believed that there should be three grades or classes for young students.
- LEvel 1-Teaches reading, writing, arithmetic and basic concepts from the Bible
- Level 2-Adds Latin grammar and continues bible instruction
- Level 3-More Latin along with rhetoric, logic, and classes were now taught in Latin
Looking back, these ideas do not seem revolutionary, however, at the time these were ground-breaking concepts. Melancthon was reacting to common teaching habits of the time. In other words, it was common to teach children several languages at once, to focus on too many subjects, and to not have the students organized into groups based on ability.
Melancthon provides us with a look at a reformer of education during the protestant reformation. His work as a teacher and scholar is second to none. In addition, his ideas on education help to rectify many problems in German education at the time.