chapter  6
58 Pages

Assessing the Impact

The simple questions with which we began – ‘What impact did humanism have on Protestantism, and Protestantism on humanism, in early modern English education?’ – clearly need refining. What we found in Chapters 3 and 4 was that the humanist-inspired studies undertaken in the lower forms of a grammar school differed in type as well as level of difficulty from the classical studies in the senior forms and the first years at university. There were also differences, perhaps a growing gulf, between the standards of teaching and the works taught at the best public and private schools in the country, and those at the grammar schools run by ‘the weaker sort of country schoolmaster’ on the lower rungs of the educational ladder. Moreover, given that not all boys progressed from junior to senior forms (due to lack of ability or family circumstances), and the majority of senior boys did not proceed to university, and given that urban and ‘country schools’ of intermediate or lower standard probably outnumbered the best-endowed and private schools, the most widely experienced form of grammar school education consisted of the lessons given at the base and middle of this pyramid.1 In terms of religious education, we saw in Chapter 5 that different views may have evolved on the nature of the ‘milk’ that would nurture the souls of children and adolescents, up to the point where their digestive systems could absorb the ‘meat’ of more advanced Christian doctrine. Where some, mainly among the ‘godly’ and some recusants, thought it was never too soon to press children to a full understanding of their faith and its consequences for their spiritual development, others, mainly among conformist laymen such as the earl of Clarendon, thought that late adolescence or early adulthood was soon enough. Those episcopalian clergy who prepared the young in their charge for confirmation in increasing numbers may have adopted a position in between.2