Late medieval society did not invest in education as such, which in itself casts light on the aims of what educational provision there was. The chief institutional interest in education came from the church, not the state. The church saw basic training in the rudiments of the faith as essential for the souls of Christian individuals, but this did not necessarily extend to literacy, and could remain compartmentalised, so that an individual learned very little from religion to apply to other aspects of experience. By English provincial legislation parish clergy were required to instruct their parishioners four times a year in the Creed, the Ten Commandments, and the seven sacraments, virtues, deadly sins and works of mercy. Education in literacy, from the church’s point of view, meant progression in Latin, which was vocationally requisite for all professional clergymen, and so much their monopoly that a reading test in it (the passage set was so commonly the first verse of the fifty-first psalm that this became known as the ‘neck verse’) was given to test those claiming the privilege of clerical status (benefit of clergy) at law, which might save a man from hanging. The purpose of the secular clergy’s education was to produce men who could perform the eight services of the divine office, and those in priests’ orders had to celebrate daily mass and perform other sacraments, such as baptism, as required.
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- The Aims of Education
Helen M. Jewell
- Macmillan Education UK
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