Martin Luther is best known for his role in sparking the Protestant Reformation during the sixteenth century. However, he was also an outspoken advocate for education for all children-- girls and boys (called “universal education”). Although widespread schooling wasn’t adopted during Luther’s lifetime, his efforts laid the foundation for universal education in later centuries.
During the 1500s, a formal school education was limited to the sons of wealthy families. Luther argued for education for all children, including girls, so that they could read and understand the Scriptures of the Bible for themselves. Luther advocated for a classical education that included history and languages, believing it would aid in the study of the Bible.
In arguing before city leaders about the importance of education, Luther said, “My dear sirs, if we have to spend such large sums every year on guns, roads, bridges, dams and countless similar items to insure the temporal peace and prosperity of a city, why should not much more be devoted to the poor neglected youth? A city's best and greatest welfare, safety and strength consist rather in its having many able, learned, wise, honorable and well-educated citizens."
CENTERED ON CHRIST
Luther, a priest and monk, led a reformation of the church in the 1500s to focus on the free gift of grace through Jesus Christ. He challenged the Pope’s authority by insisting that the Bible is the only source of divinely-revealed knowledge. This “Protestant Reformation” led to Luther being banned from the Catholic church and the formation of various Protestant Christian traditions.
Luther also printed the first translation of the Bible in German, which greatly influenced the first English translation of the Bible.
Luther lived out his belief that “it is better to obey God than to obey man.” In referring to himself, Luther said, “I am nothing but a poor monk, the inmate of a humble cell, who have, I assure you, never preached aught, never written aught, but in singleness of heart, and for the glory of my God, and the honour of the Gospel.”