Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. I. Fourteenth to Sixteenth Century
The Necessity of Schools
By John Knox (c. 15051572)
From the First Book of Discipline
SEEING that God hath determined that His Church here in earth shall be taught not by angels, but by men, and seeing that men are born ignorant of all godliness, and seeing also now God ceaseth to illuminate men miraculously, suddenly changing them as He did His apostles and others in the primitive Church: of necessity it is that your Honours be most careful for the virtuous education, and godly upbringing of the youth of this realm, if either ye now thirst unfeignedly for the advancement of Christs glory, or yet desire the continuance of His benefits to the generation following. For as the youth must succeed to us, so ought we to be careful that they have the knowledge and erudition, to profit and comfort that which ought to be most dear to us, to wit, the Church and spouse of the Lord Jesus.
Of necessity therefore we judge it, that every several Church have a school-master appointed, such a one as is able at least to teach grammar and the Latin tongue, if the town be of any reputation; if it be upaland where the people convene to doctrine but once in the week, then must either the reader or the minister there appointed take care over the children and youth of the parish, to instruct them in their first rudiments, and especially in the Catechism, as we have it now translated in the Book of our Common Order called the Order of Geneva. And further, we think it expedient, that in every notable town, and especially in the town of the superintendent, there be erected a college, in which the arts, at least logic and rhetoric, together with the tongues, be read by sufficient masters, for whom honest stipends must be appointed; as also provision for those that be poor, and be not able by themselves nor by their friends to be sustained at letters, especially such as come from landward.
The fruit and commodity hereof shall suddenly appear. For, first, the youth-heid1 and tender children shall be nourished and brought up in virtue, in presence of their friends, by whose good attendance many inconveniences may be avoided in the which the youth commonly fall, either by too much liberty which they have in strange and unknown places, while they cannot rule themselves; or else for lack of good attendance, and of such necessities as their tender age requireth. Secondarily, the exercise of children in every church shall be great instruction to the aged. Last, the great schools called universities shall be replenished with those that be apt to learning; for this must be carefully provided, that no father, of what estate or condition that ever he be, use his children at his own fantasy, especially in their youth-heid; but all must be compelled to bring up their children in learning and virtue.
The rich and potent may not be permitted to suffer their children to spend their youth in vain idleness, as heretofore they have done. But they must be exhorted, and by the censure of the Church compelled to dedicate their sons, by good exercise, to the profit of the Church and to the commonwealth, and that they must do of their own expenses, because they are able. The children of the poor must be supported and sustained on the charge of the Church, till trial be taken whether the spirit of docility be found in them or not. If they be found apt to letters and learning then may they not,we mean, neither the sons of the rich, nor yet the sons of the poor,be permitted to reject learning, but must be charged to continue their study, so that the commonwealth may have some comfort by them; and for this purpose must discreet, learned, and grave, men be appointed to visit all schools for the trial of their exercise, profit, and continuance; to wit, the ministers and elders, with the best learned in every town, shall every quarter take examination how the youth hath profited.
A certain time must be appointed to reading and to learning of the Catechism, a certain time to the grammar and to the Latin tongue, a certain time to the arts, philosophy, and to the other tongues, and certain to that study in the which they intend chiefly to travail for the profit of the commonwealth; which time being expired,we mean in every course,the children must either proceed to farther knowledge, or else they must be sent to some handicraft, or to some other profitable exercise; providing always, that first they have the form of knowledge of Christian religion, to wit, the knowledge of Gods law and commandments, the use and office of the same, the chief articles of our belief, the right form to pray unto God, the number, use, and effect of the sacraments, the true knowledge of Christ Jesus, of his offices and natures, and such others as without the knowledge whereof neither deserveth any man to be named a Christian, neither ought any to be admitted to the participation of the Lords table; and, therefore, these principles ought and must be learned in the youth-heid.