The Good Upbringing of Ramon Llull’s Blanquerna: Appropriation and Misrecognition as Social Reproduction
Johnston, Mark D.
Essays in Medieval Studies, vol. 12 (1995)
Philippe Ariès noted over thirty years ago that the study of medieval education heavily favored the great universities over elementary and secondary schools. His assessment remains largely applicable today: scholarship on the organization and curricula of the studia generalia burgeons, while basic data on the schooling of children remains scarce. This disparate scholarly attention seems puzzling if we consider that elementary and secondary schooling probably had much more impact on medieval society and culture than the universities. Perhaps the emphasis on universities reflects our ingrained prejudices in favor of “high culture” or even our own sympathies, as modern academics, for the institutions and individuals that we consider our professional ancestors. The latter possibility should encourage us to expand our conception of late medieval education beyond the institutional organization of classrooms, teachers, and pupils, which we most readily recognize as “schooling” in our era. Charles de la Roncière has lately stressed how much training of Tuscan children must have occurred inside the home, in a family business, or through social groups. Medieval education was surely a diffuse, complex, and broad process, involving a wide range of the basic functions of conservation, reproduction, assimilation, transformation, negotiation, and conflict commonly recognized in modern social theory.