Though recognized for his work in reforming the Church, Martin Luther was also a great reformer of education. He advocated the liberal arts as the best curriculum for young people. The following is a collection of quotations from his writings.
If we wish to have excellent and apt persons both for civil and ecclesiastical government, we must spare no diligence, time, or cost in teaching and educating our children, that they may serve God and the world.
“Let every one know, therefore, that it is his duty, on peril of losing the divine favor, to bring up his children above all in the fear and knowledge of God, and if they are talented, have them learn and study something, that they may be employed for whatever need there is (to have them instructed and trained in a liberal education), that men may be able to have their aid in government and in whatever is necessary.” (Explanation to the Fourth Commandment, Large Catechism)
My dear sirs and friends, you see with your own eyes how that wretch of a Satan is now attacking us on all sides with force and guile. He is afflicting us in every way he can to destroy the holy gospel and the kingdom of God, or, if he cannot destroy them, at least to hinder them at every turn and prevent them from moving ahead and gaining the upper hand. Among his wiles, one of the very greatest, if not the greatest of all, is this—he deludes and deceives the common people so that they are not willing to keep their children in school or expose them to instruction. He puts into their minds the dastardly notion that because monkery, nunning, and priestcraft no longer hold out the hope they once did, there is therefore no more need for study and for learned men, that instead we need to give thought only to how to make a living and get rich.
“This seems to me to be a real masterpiece of the devil’s art. He sees that in our time he cannot do what he would like to do; therefore, he intends to have his own way with our offspring. Before our very eyes he is preparing them so that they will learn nothing and know nothing. Then when we are dead, he will have before him a naked, bare, defenseless people with whom he can do as he pleases.” (LW AE 46:216-217)
I would advise no one to send his child where the Holy Scriptures are not supreme. Every institution that does not unceasingly pursue the study of God’s word becomes corrupt.
“We cannot do without music in our schools. A schoolmaster must know how to sing, or I would not allow him to teach….Next to theology I rank music, and hold it in almost equal honor. For look how David and all holy men have uttered their heavenly meditations in verse, rhyme and song.” (W-T 5, No. 6248)
For my part, if I had children and could manage it, I would have them study not only languages and history, but also singing and music together with the whole of mathematics. For what is all this but mere child’s play?” The ancient Greeks trained their children in these disciplines; yet they grew up to be people of wondrous ability, subsequently fit for everything. How I regret now that I did not read more poets and historians, and that no one taught me them! (AE 45:369-370)