From the early medieval era till the early 19th century education was the domain of the church and the home, and Europe advanced continually as a society to great heights and remained Christian.

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In the early 19th century Napoleon took it upon himself to centralize education, militarise it (uniforms, desks in lines, military style discipline etc, etc) and the rest of the West copied him. Napoleon taught the leaders of Europe how to take state control of the education system. The famous Prussian model built itself on this. This education revolution changed the world, and eventually the religious nature of the West:

“Napoleon desired above all things, however, that in the future the Government should have the confidence of the majority of Frenchmen. To accomplish this the Government must needs have control of their intellects, and must mould the same to its own good pleasure, taking charge of its citizens from their infancy by means of an elaborate system of education.  This was a new idea which Napoleon had borrowed from the Assemblies of the Revolution. Under the Ancient Régime, in fact, the King had not interested himself in the education of his subjects. Practically all education worthy of the name was in the hands of ecclesiastics, frequently Jesuits; and a great fraction of the lower classes had been pitifully illiterate. The men of the Revolution and their leaders occupied themselves with preparing a scheme for instruction by the State. Napoleon built upon their work and attached the utmost importance to the development of this type of instruction, because “he wished to form,” he declared, “a block of granite on which to build the strata of the new society.” As Consul he had organized the high schools (lycées). As Emperor he established the “University.”

The Imperial University was founded (March 17, 1808), in order, the decree stated, “to assure uniformity of instruction and to mould for the State citizens devoted to their religion, their prince, their fatherland, and their families.” It was to teach “faithfulness to the Emperor and to the Imperial Monarchy, the guardian of the prosperity of the people.”

Under the direction of a “Grand Master,” who ranked among the principal dignitaries of the Empire, and who later became the Minister of Public Instruction, the University comprised a graded system with three types of instruction – primary, secondary, and higher. For the sake of administration it was divided into academies, each supervised by a Rector. This hierarchy of instruction and administrative organization exist to-day just as they were established by Napoleon.

Primary education was not, indeed, organized by the State. The Emperor entrusted it to the care of the “Brothers of the Christian Faith.” They received an annual subsidy of only 4250 francs. This was the entire budget for primary instruction! All this meant that elementary instruction, too elementary to convey any political knowledge, was turned over to the Church and its charities. So far as Napoleon was involved, it did not greatly matter if ploughmen and vine-dressers remained illiterate.

Secondary instruction, however, was organized with great care, because it was to mould the future military and civil officials through whom the Emperor was to control France. This instruction was given in the colleges and high schools (lycées). The programmes were stripped almost completely of all those studies which might tend to create or develop the critical spirit: philosophy and history, etc. The professors and pupils were subjected to military discipline. The ordinary high schools were governed by a uniform regulation, where their entire programme was carried out to the tap from the drum, and had all the aspect of military schools.[1]

The Unlucky Country - Zimmermann & Moens

From the moment that education was centralized into the control of the state irreligion, radical socialism, and many other degradations have taken an increasing hold of the West. State control of education has not produced better citizens or societies, but more atheist citizens and societies. And now many kids are taught ridiculous things about gender, anthropogenic climate change (secular end-times) and more.

It doesn’t take a genius to know how to turn this around. It starts with getting away from state run schools as much as possible. Napoleon did not begin with taking control of the entire education system. He began by taking over the upper levels, and hamstrung the church by removing much of its potential funding for proper education. However, the encroachment of the state into education has only increased since his reforms, and the more this encroachment increases the more the evils of the French revolution, such as socialism, extreme emphasis on equality, an anti-hierarchical society and atheism have increased. In fact, these things have become so successful that much of the church which once oppose these things has taken them on board and now defends them, except maybe atheism ( though openly atheist pastors do exist).

Education is the responsibility of parents, first and foremost. We have farmed to much of parenting out to others, and farming it out to the state has had incredibly negative effects. There are people who will cry out, “I went to public school and I am a strong Christian!” Putting aside the facts that even many of these Christians are people with strong socialist and egalitarian philosophies who often advocate for more government power in society and often radical social programs that undermine the traditional family, being the exception does not mean public schools are a net good. When the Church oversaw education it produced Christians and universities, and great philosophers and many other grand institutions of Europe. When the state took over control it began a strong process of turning every citizen into an obedient worker drone who was taught not to question the state. Is this really disputable? After all, it was the stated goal of creators of the system that has turned into what we have today.  

Also, how could a system that got rid of history and philosophy not be intrinsically evil? Today philosophy is non-existent in school and history is taught very badly. This situation was a product of an evil man from an evil time. It’s time to move away from his model. 


[1] Davis, William Stearns. A History of France from the Earliest Times to the Treaty of Versailles (pp. 318-319). Lecturable. Kindle Edition.


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Matthew Littlefield writes to think through some of the current issues facing society, the Church and whatever else comes to mind that might be interesting to process. Matt's focus is usually historical or scriptural, though he will address current issues from time to time as well. He is a co-author of The Ezekiel Declaration and the book, Defending Conscience, How Baptists reminded the Church to defy tyranny. He blogs most days at

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