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Management education essay

Many believe that free education is a relatively modern idea, instituted at the end of the 19th Century when secondary education was made compulsory. However, this is a misconception. In the middle ages grammar schools provided education for anyone who wanted it. They were funded by rich nobles who donated an extremely large sum of money for the school to be founded and continue to provide education to children for years. Although anyone who wanted to go was able to, this was not always practical. Only boys went to school and girls stayed at the home to be educated in cooking, washing etc by their mothers. As it was not compulsory, if a family was too poor to allow their boy to go to school and needed him to help them survive by working, he had to stay at home. This was the case for about 40% of families in England. Despite this, grammar schools reached only a tiny percentage of the population. It was widely believed among the gentry and upper classes (who funded and therefore controlled the schools) that education should not be extended to the poor since it would upset the social order and increase their expectations beyond acceptable levels.

During the reign of Elizabeth I the number of grammar schools expanded considerably. Protestantism emphasised the importance of education as a means to encourage ordinary people to read the Bible. The new religious enthusiasm of the country meant that people with the necessary means were encouraged to pay for the education of the proletariat. Due to this, many wealthy members of the middling sort bequeathed large sums of money to small grammar schools. Successful scholars of humble background were even able to apply for places at the prestigious universities of Oxford and Cambridge. The sons of aristocrats either went to the public schools like Eton College or were educated at home by tutors. They taught boys not only the usual subjects but also what they needed for the complex world of nobility like how to act in pubic and the correct codes of practice. All this meant that only “the middling sort” attended grammar schools. If a family desired their son or daughter to receive a religious education, they were sent to an abbey school (such as Westminster) or a monastery where they stayed till they had completed their education. In the church, girls had an equal opportunity to learn. They could be sent to a where they were placed under the control of nuns and lived in this community all their lives.

There was no exam to get into a grammar school but a high level of intelligence was still needed as any pupil not keeping up to speed with the class was kicked out. Linguistic skills were probably the most important thing for an aspiring scholar; the grammar schools were called so because all they taught was in Latin grammar. Basically, the curriculum consisted of anything, as long as it was in Latin. Subjects taught differed depending on what teacher you had but mathematics and science were both popular choices. These days, everyone is educated but not very well, in the middle ages either you got a brilliant education or you got none at all. This was mainly due to the fact that there were very few text books around at the time. The most widely printed book was and still is the Bible. Other books were extremely expensive and most schools could not afford any. Nobles had such large libraries because although it is not such a big thing today then, your library was the showcase of your wealth. Students had to memorize whole books and quotations from scholars such as Chaucer, Aristotle and Euclid. The writings from the great Greek learners still provided much of the teaching material even though they had been written over 100 years before. The general purpose of the grammar school was to prepare boys for University. Almost all boys who went to grammar school received a higher education and they got this at either Oxford or Cambridge University. The way that schools worked was completely different from today; instead of completing your work year by year with people in your class being the same age, you would be able to skip years in relation to how clever you were. You progressed to University when you were ready, not when you were old enough. Those who wanted a literary degree, like aspiring lawyers and priests would usually go to Oxford and those that wanted a more technical degree would go to Cambridge.

In University, the rich students lived very well but the poorer students who could not afford the fees became sizors. This was where they acted as part time servants to the rich students and dons. By helping out in the kitchens or doing odd jobs around the university for a few hours per week, they earned their lessons and food. All students received the same education, regardless of their social stature. Their reasons for going to university were altogether different. The poor went to university to get a good education which would prepare them for a job that would earn them a living. The aristocrats simply attended university as a pastime as they already had enough money to live very comfortably for the rest of their lives. The respectable but not particularly rich middling sort also attended so that they could carry on their family business successfully.

University was a much bigger commitment then than it is today. To fully complete your degree it took anything between five and fifteen years. The closest system to this nowadays is that in Germany where most do not finish until their early thirties. Students did a B.A (Bachelor of Arts) course for their first three years. A whole degree took seven years. The curriculum was called the “Trivium” because it had three subjects. You learnt grammar, the science of languages; Logic, the science of reasoning and Rhetoric, the science of persuasion. The source for these was generally Aristotle who had written over thirty different text books, ranging from geometry to marine biology! The seven year degree was called the Quadrivium because it had four subjects. These were: Mathematics, Geometry, Music (which included arts and aesthetics) and Astronomy (physics). The post graduate course would earn you a PhD (Doctor of Philosophy). These courses included Theology and Law. Most members of the clergy would have a degree in theology. Although there was not nearly such a wide choice of careers as there is today, the training provided in a grammar school and college would basically set someone up for any respectable profession, from lawyer to priest.

Thomas Wolsey is the perfect example of how the educational system could allow someone to become one of the most powerful men in England. He was born in Ipswich in about 1473. As the son of a local butcher no one expected great things from him. However, from an early age he showed great potential and was enrolled in the local grammar school. His great intellectual talent and extraordinary ambition made him the best pupil in the school by far. One scholarship was awarded to a boy from East Anglia to Magdalen College, Oxford per year. Wolsey was singled out to receive it. This meant that although he would to have gone to University anyway, he did not have to become a sizor. Unfortunately, not a lot more is known about his early life as he was not of noble birth. At only 15 he became the youngest person ever to take the Trivium. Although he finished his education as one of the cleverest men in England, Wolsey was still very poor. He knew that in the church a man with brains could quickly rise up the ranks so he became a priest. He soon begun to make powerful friends and after a while, the Archbishop of Canterbury noticed his talent and made him his personal chaplain. In 1507 about 20 years after leaving school, Wolsey was made a royal chaplain. Never in the history of the church or indeed the civil service has a man risen so quickly. By 1518, the butcher’s son had become a cardinal and was able to live like a king. This story shows that with enough talent and ambition the early modern education system gave people the opportunity to rise from rags to riches.

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