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Medieval Education

Medieval education was often conducted  under the auspices of the Church. During the 800’s French ruler  Charlemagne realized his empire needed educated people if it was to  survive, and he turned to the Catholic Church as the source of such  education. His decree commanded that every cathedral and monastery was  to establish a school to provide a free education to every boy who had  the intelligence and the perseverance to follow a demanding course of  study.

Grammar, rhetoric, logic, Latin,  astronomy philosophy and mathematics formed the core of most curriculum.  During the Dark Ages, the only natural science learned  came from popular encyclopedias based on ancient writings of Pliny and  other Roman sources. The medieval student might learn that hyenas can  change their sex at will and that an elephant's only fear is of  dragons. Students learned more when they ventured out into the  countryside to talk with trappers, hunters, furriers and poachers, who  spent their time observing wildlife.

Medieval students often sat together on the floor, scrawling notes from lessons using a bone or ivory stylus  on wooden tablets coated with green or black wax. Knights were also  educated and looked down upon if they could not read and write. Girls  were virtually ignored when it came to education. Only daughters of the very rich and powerful were allowed to attend select courses.

At 14 or 15, some scholars would  continue education at a university. These were a creation of the Middle Ages and could be found in larger European cities. Wars and invasions  often halted studies, but these universities would reemerge during the  later Middle Ages and the Renaissance. The cap and gown that college  graduates wear today have  their roots in medieval academic garments.

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