Education and Physical Education during the Renaissance

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Education and Physical Education during the Renaissance

  • KPE 260 – Winter, 2001
  • Dr. D. Frankl

Renaissance (14th-17th Centuries) The Age of Rebirth

  • Crusades lead to contact with the Moslem world and knowledge
  • Rediscovery of the classics
  • New economy and the growth of a middle class
  • Humanism, Moralism, and Realism replace scholastic philosophy


  • Individual Humanism –Italy
  • Petrus Paulus Vergerious (1349-1420)
  • Vittorino da Feltre (1378-1446)
  • Social Humanism—Northern Europe
  • The Beheading of Saint George
  • Source:

Classical Revival of Gymnasiums and Academies

  • The gymnasiums appeared in ducal courts; they were created for the liberal education of privileged boys and as the first stage of the studia humanitatis.

Humanism & Education

  • Academics were again mixed with periods of physical activity.
  • The appreciation of the body’s beauty is expressed in art.
  • Source:

Humanism & Education Vittorino da Feltre

  • La Giocosa (literally, "The Jocose, or Joyful")
  • Great importance was given to recreation and physical education
  • during the summers, when the
  • Summer camp at Lake Garda or by the hills outside Verona
  • Respect and strive to understand individual needs

Humanism & Medicine

  • public dissections of criminals (Some are alive, others are already dead. It depends on what the punishment is for.)
  • Photo courtesy of Adam McLean from his website The Alchemy Web Site
  • - see credits.

Social Humanism

  • Movement accelerated in France and Germany by Johann Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press.
  • Model of the Gutenberg press in the Museum in Wittenberg.

Physical Education and Social Humanism

  • Image source:

Educational Moralism

  • Ironically, Humanism facilitated the ignition of the Protestant Reformation.
  • Lutheranism
  • Calvinism
  • Anglicanism
  • Martin Luther
  • (1483-1546)
  • Image source:


  • Calvin, John(1509-64)
  • Only those whom God elects are saved, and that a person does nothing to effect his or her salvation
  • Christ did not die for all men but only those on the "saved list“
  • A child of God once saved, cannot be lost.


  • Anglican worship was a unique product of the Reformation, continuous with the historical liturgical tradition of the Western Church rather than founded on 'new' Protestant rites.
  • It was based on a liturgy whose use was obligatory and the entirety of which was set out in the Book of Common Prayer..

Physical Education During the Reformation

  • Class consciousness rather than religious motives undermined physical education
  • Harsh conditions on the American frontier
  • Dogmatic laws
  • New Protestant schools had no PE in their curriculum

Realism and Physical Education

  • Verbal Realism
  • Juan Luis Vives, Francois Rabelais and John Milton
  • The body should be developed to support mental power
  • Social Realism (Montaigne)
  • Sense Realism (Francis Bacon, Richard Mulcaster, and John Amos Comenious)

Verbal Realism

  • "Of Man's first disobedience, and the fruit
  • Of that forbidden tree whose mortal taste
  • Brought death into the world, and all our woe,
  • With loss of Eden." (from Paradise Lost)
  • “The childhood shows the man, As morning shows the day.” (Book iv. Line 220).
  • “Athens, the eye of Greece, mother of arts And eloquence.”
  • (Book iv. Line 240).
  • John Milton (1608-1674)

John Milton

  • Milton’s “Paradise Lost” tells a biblical story of Adam and Eve, with God, and Lucifer (Satan), who is thrown out of Heaven to corrupt humankind. Milton created a powerful and sympathetic portrait of Lucifer. This view influenced deeply Romantic poets William Blake and Percy Bysshe Shelley, who saw Satan as the real hero of the poem and a rebel against the tyranny of Heaven.
  • Reproduced from:

John Milton -- Areopagitica: Freedom of the Press

  • Areopagitica is a passionate defense of freedom of the press, which was originally a speech to the Long Parliament on the question of licensing printers. Milton's erudite and his comprehensive survey of the history of public censorship is seen as one of the foundations of modern political liberty, and of democracy.
  • Reproduced from:

Michel Eyguemde de Montaigne (1533 - 1592)

  • "I have never seen a greater monster or miracle than myself." --Essays
  • “He attempted to weigh or 'assay'
  • his nature, habits, his own opinions
  • and those of others. He is searching
  • for truth by reflecting on his readings,
  • his travels as well as his experiences
  • both public and private.”
  • Montaigne’s essay “On the Education of Children” is a very modern view on education
  • Social Realism
  • Reproduced from:

Michel Eyguemde de Montaigne (1533 - 1592)

  • “It is not a mind, it is not a body that we are training; it is a man, and he ought not to be divided into two parts”
  • “The body has a great share in our being, it has an eminent place there; and therefore its structure and composition very properly receive consideration.”
  • “We must command the soul not to draw aside and entertain herself apart, not to despise and abandon the body.”
  • Montaigne, d. M. (1934) The Essays of Michel de Montaigne,
  • Trans. Jacob Zeitlin. New York, NY: Alfred Knopf.

Sense Realism Francis Bacon (1561-1626)

  • The scientific method, which required using independent judgment and observing nature as a means of seeking truth, simulated the enthusiasm of… sense realists.”
  • Van Dalen & Bennett (1971, p. 171)
  • Image source:

Francis Bacon Quotations

  • “There is a wisdom in this beyond the rules of physic. A man's own observation, what he finds good of and what he finds hurt of, is the best physic to preserve health.”
  • “Cleanness of body was ever deemed to proceed from a due reverence to God.”
  • Source:
  • Image source:

Richard Mulcaster (1531-1611)

  • English schoolmaster educated at Eton, Cambridge, and Oxford whose pedagogical views, such as, special university training for teachers, comparable to that for doctors or lawyers, careful selection of teachers and adequate salaries, assignment of the best teachers to the lowest grades, and close association between teachers and parents were not generally accepted until at least 250 years after his death.
  • Source:

Richard Mulcaster

  • In 1561 he became the first headmaster of the Merchant-Taylors' School, later acting as high master at St. Paul's.
  • He emphasized the importance of individual differences in children, the adjustment of the curriculum to these differences, and the use of readiness rather than age in determining progress.
  • Source:

John Amos Comenius (1593-1670)

  • Comenius came up with a concept he called Pansophy: "men, seeing in a clear light the ends of all things, and the means to those ends, and the correct use of those means, might be able to direct all that they have to good ends.”
  • Image and text source:

John Amos Comenius (1593-1670)

  • Comenious proposed that all children should be given a general education without any discrimination of sex, social origin or property.
  • His text books were age-appropriate, intending to first attract children to schoolwork and at the end matriculate students who “can find their way in the world.”
  • Adapted from:

John Locke (1632-1704)

  • John Locke, a political and social philosopher of 17th century England, more than any other thinker influenced the author of the Declaration of Independence and the Framers of the American Constitution.
  • George M. Stephens (1998). John Locke: His American and
  • Carolinian Legacy. The Locke Foundation.

John Locke (1632-1704)

  • Locke held that "the minds of children [are] as easily turned, this way or that, as water itself." He underrated innate differences: "we are born with faculties and powers, capable almost of anything;" and, "as it is in the body, so it is in the mind, practice makes it what it is." Along with this view went a profound conviction of the importance of education, and of the breadth of its aim. It has to fit men for life -- for the world, rather than for the university. Instruction in knowledge does not exhaust it; it is essentially a training of character.

Educational Naturalism Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778)

  • In his treatise "The Social Contract," Rousseau posits that man was naturally good but is corrupted by the influence of society and its institutions.
  • Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains. “
  • “Everything is good as it leaves the hands of the author of things, everything degenerates in the hands of man.”
  • Rousseau's influence both in art and politics was huge in his own day and continues to be strong today.

Educational Naturalism Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778)

  • “All wickedness comes from weakness. . . . Make [the child] strong and he will be good.”
  • “The training of the body, though much neglected, is… the most important part of education.”
  • “Childhood has its ways of seeing, thinking, and feeling that are proper to it.”
  • “There is no original perversity in the human heart.”
  • “Put questions within [the child's] reach and let him solve them himself. Let him know nothing because you have told him, but because he has learned it for himself .”
  • “It is in doing good that we become good.”

Rousseau’s view on the relationship between body and mind --

  • “It is a lamentable mistake to imagine that bodily activity hinders the working of the mind, as if these two kinds of activity ought not to advance hand in hand, and as if the one were not intended to act as guide to the other…to learn to think we must therefore exercise our limbs, our senses, and our bodily organs, which are tools of the intellect; and to get the best use out of these tools, the body which supplies us with them must be strong and healthy.”

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