Stephen J. McKinney

This year marks the five hundredth anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation and there is a renewed interest in the life and work of Martin Luther. This article explores Martin Luther's vision of school education. It provides a critique of Luther's ideas on school education and concludes by arguing that Luther has contributed to the history of ideas in education and the long and slow progress to compulsory state-funded school education. Stephen J. McKinney is Professor of Education, University of Glasgow and visiting Professor of Catholic Education at Newman University.

lutherIntroduction
On 31 October 1517 Martin Luther sent the Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences to Archbishop Albrecht of Mainz. These are usually referred to as the Ninety-Five Theses.1 The purpose of the Ninety-Five Theses was to challenge the sale of indulgences that were being used to help fund the construction of St Peter's Basilica in Rome. Archbishop Albrecht had secured an agreement that he could keep half of the income from the indulgences sold in the German territories. He was using this money to pay off loans that he had used to acquire dispensations for a number of ecclesial positions.2 It is possible that Luther may also have posted the Ninety-Five Theses on the door of All Saints Church in Wittenberg.3 The Ninety-Five Theses were to be the catalyst for the Reformation and this year commemorates the five hundredth anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation. Martin Luther's position in Church history and his contribution to Christian thought are very well documented. This article seeks to explore the less well-known contribution of Luther to the history of school education as articulated in two key works: The Letter to the Councilmen of all Cities of Germany that they establish and maintain Christian Schools (1524) and A Sermon on Keeping Children in School (1530).4

The Letter to the Councilmen of all Cities of Germany that they establish and maintain Christian Schools (1524)
This letter sets out a series of arguments for an increase in schooling to ensure that the cities have a properly educated population. Luther explains that it is a divine command to educate the youth and, as might be expected from a biblical scholar, he draws on the scriptures to substantiate this point.

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