In many eras, events happened as a reaction, and often an overreaction, to events of the prior era. In the Middle Ages, a proper education was extremely rare for the common people. As a reaction to the Middle Ages, in the early renaissance, there was a strong focus on a classical education consisting of Greek, Latin, the classics, and art. As the population and economy grew and books became more readily available, people became disillusioned with the impractical classical education, demanding an education leading to practical professions.
In the early renaissance, emphasis was redirected from clerical to secular life. The secular humanist idea held that the church should not rule civic matters, but should guide only spiritual matters. The church disdained the accumulation of wealth and worldly goods, supported a strong but limited education, and believed that moral and ethical behavior was dictated by scripture.
Humanists, however, believed that wealth enabled them to do fine, noble deeds, that good citizens needed a good, well-rounded education, and that moral and ethical issues were related more to secular society than to spiritual concerns. Humanists paid close attention to classical studies because most of the humanist philosophy was based on Greek and Roman ideas. In addition to the study of Latin and Greek, a classical education consisted of scientific matters, government, rhetoric, philosophy and art.
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In the Middle Ages, the church discouraged education to keep people under the control of the church. People were guided by the teachings of the church and had little opinion to what was being told to them. Books were also very costly and were mostly written in Latin, an unfamiliar language to the common people. People were taught Greek and Latin so that they could understand the books available to them. In 1445, Gutenberg invented the printing press, making books more plentiful and therefore affordable for the educated middle class. They also began printing books in European languages.
By the late stages of the renaissance, the population started to rise dramatically and the economy started to boom. With a larger population, more merchants and tradesman and other people with practical skills were needed. With books more readily available, people demanded books in the many languages of Europe. As a result, the concentration in education focused on local languages, practical mathematics, science and trades.
Although the renaissance reversed the practices of medieval times by restoring education in the classics and gave rebirth to independent thought, the masses demanded a redirection of education to practical and useful skills. The focus on humanism forced the Church to play a secondary role in peoples" lives. Despite the changes in education and philosophy during the renaissance, Europe eventually molded itself into a well-rounded society.
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