Martin Luther: Learning for Life

Article excerpt

Martin Luther: Learning for Life. By Marilyn J. Harran. St. Louis: Concordia, 1997, 284 pp.

Comparing the change in the spread of communication between the age of the printing press in the sixteenth century to the age of the information highway today, Marilyn Harran presents a fresh approach to Luther on education. She seeks to discover Luther's approach to pedagogy to prepare both laypeople and clergy to advance the community of the faithful. She also asks what lessons we can learn from Luther in our age of secular education.

There have certainly been numerous works on the subject of Luther and education published over the last few years, most notably Strauss's Luther's House of Learning. Harran claims that the shortcomings of these works is that they do not focus on Luther's own education and the role that it played in shaping his views on the subject. Harran hopes to fill this void with the present work. The author treads over well-worn ground, relying heavily on key secondary sources, especially those of Heiko Oberman and Martin Brecht.

In the first generation of the Reformation, Luther faced the unique challenge of structuring a system of religious education for children while also having to instruct their parents and even grandparents in the rudiments of evangelical theology. He also was a professor at the fledgling University of Wittenberg and played a decisive role in its curricular reforms. Harran argues that the university was an essential element of the Reformation and that Luther and Melanchthon used the best teaching methods that were available to them, the ones that they had learned from both their humanist and scholastic teachers.

For Luther, the education of youth was an essential element to prepare for the future of the Reformation. Luther advocated that all children should receive at least a rudimentary form of instruction. Boys typically attended primary school for one to two hours a day and girls for only one hour. The Bible and the catechism were essential aspects of such a system both for children and for adults. …