Short Stories for Teachers

History of Western Education
By:Joshua Wallace

The History of Western Education is a vast subject and beyond the scope of this article to cover in its entirety. However, the essential theme concerning Western Education involves the technological advancements shaping it. For example, education is related to mankind's immediate circumstance and the way information is passed to succeeding generations. Western Education began within hunter-gatherer societies spreading to most developed countries by the 19th century. It's important to note, Western Civilization began as European in origin and progressed to North America, New Zealand and Australia as its identified geography today.

Hunter-Gatherer Societies
Hunter-gatherer societies or pre-literate societies dominated 2,000,000 years ago up till the Stone Ages. Hunter-gatherer societies involve direct contact with resources required to sustain human life. Direct contact with vital resources involved considerable effort in processing and distributing---usually---for immediate consumption. Because of this, certain skills sets were required to ensure the continued survival of hunter-gatherer groups. Education within pre-literate societies involved teaching children essential hunter-gatherer skills through mimicry and transferring information orally; a sort of on-the-job-training passed on by capable members of the group.

Agricultural Societies
Pre-industrial or agricultural societies began about 10,000 years ago and appeared in Western civilization around 500 B.C. Western practice of agriculture gained monument around 52 B.C. as the Romans became increasingly sophisticated at cultivating the land and domesticating animals. Western education within agricultural societies showed a rapid increase of complexity. For instance, through agriculture came the division of labor that identifies groups of people with a particular set of skills. Education came in the form of learning a trade accompanied with a considerable investment of time to achieve competence. This was a radical departure of the nomadic hunter-gatherer's experience where time is incredibly scarce and everyone was usually one meal away from starvation. Ultimately, advancements in agricultural technology allowed humans to form dense communities, exchange ideas and share experiences unseen in their hunter-gatherer counterparts. This had a profound significance on what would later define Western education.

Socratic Method
The Socratic Method is a term denoting a debate between opposing viewpoints characterized with a robust exchange of questioning and answering encouraging the use of logic. Socrates was a Greek philosopher (469 to 399 B.C) whom the Socratic Method was named after. Socrates' influence on Western education is significant. The Socratic Method remains dominate as a teaching method favored within modern educational institutions; most notably within Western law schools.

Plato
Plato was a student of Socrates, a Greek philosopher (428 to 348 B.C.) and founder of the Platonic Academy, the first institution for higher education in Western civilization. The curriculum involved logic, mathematics, science and natural philosophy. Plato's academy closely resembled a formal classroom structure experienced today involving lecturing, questioning-and-answering, emphasis on orderly conduct and a classroom structure favoring teaching strategies both necessary and economical when managing large groups of people for the sole purpose of learning.

Modern
Within the Western world, education became widespread and even mandatory in most developed countries by the 19th century. Western education in modern times favors the Platonic model and is usually provided by government institutions up to a set age---for example, the Department of Education.






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