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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume II. The End of the Middle Ages.

XV. English and Scottish Education. Universities and Public Schools to the Time of Colet

§ 18. The Education of a Young Scholar in the Middle Ages

The education offered to the young scholar in the Middle Ages was, essentially, utilitarian; he was trained for service in public functions. A few rules of grammatical expression; some elementary calculations; geometry, consisting mainly of ill-informed geography; music sufficient to qualify for the singing of a mass; and Ptolemaic astronomy, directing to the correct determination of Easter—these, with much skill in argument derived from long exercise in the use of dialetic forms, constituted the ripe fruit of the course in trivium and quadrivium. The disputants in the schools wasted their energy in a barren philosophy. The few followers of Roger Bacon in the domain of a progressive natural science, more than suspected of alliance with the Saracen and the Evil One, could find legitimate scope for their research only within the confines of a crude medical science which combined the simples of the herb wife with a barbarous surgery. Unless caught in the scholastic net of metaphysics, the medieval student could find substantial mental food only in theology or in law. And, in a field where to trip was to be denounced as a heretic, the theology offered was the slavish repetition of received glosses, the killing of the literal sense of Scripture in the drawing out of the so-called allegorical, moral and anagogical meaning, or, at best, the application of syllogistic methods to the dicta of ancient fathers.