Fifty Major Thinkers on Education: From Confucius to Dewey

By Joy A. Palmer; Liora Bresler et al. | Go to book overview

JOHN WESLEY 1703-91

The bias of nature is set the wrong way. Education is designed to set it right. 1

John Wesley was born at Epworth, Lincolnshire, on 17 June 1703, the second surviving son of Reverend Samuel Wesley, Rector of Epworth, and his wife Susanna. Educated at Charterhouse and Christ Church, Oxford, Wesley was elected fellow of Lincoln College in 1726 and ordained. From 1725 he determined to live a holy life by vigorous self-discipline and from 1729 led a like-minded group nicknamed 'the Holy Club' and 'Methodists'. As a missionary in Georgia in 1735-7 Wesley was influenced by Moravian immigrants and on his return to England they convinced him that salvation could only come by faith in Christ rather than in his own efforts and on 24 May 1738 he experienced an evangelical conversion. Thereafter as a travelling evangelist he organized religious societies which became a nationwide network serviced by lay preachers. From 1744 an annual conference of preachers laid down rules for the organization. Though claiming that he had not separated from the Church of England, in 1784 Wesley registered his Conference as a legal entity and began to conduct his own ordinations, initially for America. After his death on 2 March 1791 Methodism developed into a new family of churches, dividing into several branches during the nineteenth century. Though part of an international evangelical revival movement, Wesley's Methodism was distinctive for its centralized organization, rejection of Calvinistic predestination and controversial advocacy of Christian perfection.

Wesley was a prolific writer, though much of his output consisted of abridgements of other authors, tailored to his own views. Despite his wide intellectual and cultural interests, Wesley's overriding concern was to use culture to promote religion, and he had a strong interest in the supernatural. His educational work has to be viewed in the light of his overriding religious concerns and beliefs after his conversion.

The evidence for the influence of published and other sources on Wesley's educational ideals and practice is mostly indirect and deduced from apparent echoes and parallels. He cites Milton and the Pietist system at Jena but only for the principles of continuous education in one place and the constant presence of masters with the children, respectively. Wesley's Instructions for Children (1743) were avowedly adapted from Pierre Poiret and Claude Fleury; his A Token for Children (1749) from the Puritan James Janeway; and reading lists for his preachers and Kingswood school reflect the advice of Philip Doddridge, head of a Dissenting Academy. Though not directly acknowledged by Wesley, echoes and close parallels have been claimed between his prescriptions and Locke's Some Thoughts on Education, the Jansenist Port Royal schools and possibly Comenius.

Wesley's most obvious inspiration can be found in his mother's system of child-rearing and education at Epworth, together with his observations on the Pietist and Moravian schools in Germany he visited in 1738 and published in his Journal. Susanna Wesley was concerned to educate children in obedience and godliness from the earliest possible age before worldly corruption set in. This contrasts with contemporaries who thought religious

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Fifty Major Thinkers on Education: From Confucius to Dewey
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Chronological List of Contents v
  • Alphabetical List of Contents viii
  • Preface xiii
  • Confucius 551-479 Bce 1
  • Further Reading 5
  • Notes 9
  • Books on Aristotle''s Educational Ideas 20
  • Saint Augustine 354-430 25
  • John Wesley 1703-91 50
  • Kant''s Major Writings 64
  • Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel 1770-1831 84
  • John Henry Newman 1801-90 100
  • Herbert Spencer 1820-1903 120
  • Thomas Henry Huxley 1825-95 128
  • Further Reading 146
  • Alfred Binet 1857-1911 160
  • Émile Durkheim 1858-1917 165
  • Addams'' Major Writings 187
  • Notes 191
  • Harvard (1924-39) 205
  • Émile Jaques-Dalcroze 1865-1950 206
  • Martin Buber 1878-1965 239
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