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How Education Emerged in Old Scot Empire

When I was going to the University, I remember our teacher was asking for us to read many books on Philosophy and while visiting the Public Library last month, I just happen to grab a great book written by Arthur Herman, How Scots Invented the Modern World.(or How Scots Contributed to the Modern World, as some claim, the title of the book should be. We don't write reviews on books but that way he presents History is pleasant and we were refreshing our memory on Enlightenment, not the French that most of you had learned but the Scottish.

Scottish immigrants were poor but more educated and skilled than their European counterparts. Herman makes the case that the American system owes more to Scotland's revolution than to France's. And then, Scottish Enlightenment deserves more credit than it gets. John Knox, a writer and strict evangelical preacher pursued as goal, turn Scots into God’s chosen people and Scotland into the New Jerusalem. He wiped out Catholicism and embraced Calvinism. So, Scottish society enveloped these principles. The author claims that Knox is for Scots what Luther meant to Germans.

The formula for democracy is own to Knox and Buchanan, rather than John Locke, as many assure. They believed that political power ordained by God was not vested to kings or nobles but in the people. What American Constitution says, We the People. For these two Scottish, "all political authority ultimately belonged to the people...The people was always more powerful that the rulers they created; they were free to remove them all" (pg. 18)

Enlightment Scotish people explained better than anyone else has ever done, why British market-oriented (or Whig) notions of liberty allowed both freedom and prosperity to flourish. In justifying the Whig theory of liberty, the Scots prepared the way both for the framers of the American Constitution and for the classical liberalism of the last two centuries -for free trade, The Edinburgh Review, the Manchester School, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

And we've stopped to read attentively the reference to the Act for Setting Schools, it was in 1696 that Scotland Parliament passed this act. Adam Smith and David Hume wrote not only for intellectuals but for a reading public. "Library's records show books were loaned to the local baker, the blacksmith, the cooper, farmers, stonemasons, quarriers, tailors and household servants."(pg. 25) And that's how Robert Burns become a respected poet in Scotland.

The Middle Ages in Scotland were represented by great universities like Glasglow and St. Andrews. The problem of faith between Episcopalian (English) and Presbyterian (Scottish)made almost impossible to interchange universities for students. Only Episcopalian were allowed in Oxford, Cambridge or the Trinity College in Dublin. That's why the University of Edinburg, Aberdeen's Marischal College and King's College, like Glasglow and St. Andrews were international centers of learning but they never became the ivory towers as the eighteen century Oxford and Cambridge did.

Smith in the Wealth of Nations certifies that almost the whole common people was taught "to read, and a very great proportion of them to write and account." It was the beginning to universalize education. So, they had seated basis to literacy and numeracy as fundamental skills for living in a complex modern society as today we have.

Here you can read a summary of the book chapter by chapter.

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