knoxlargeJohn Knox (16th century) was a Scottish clergyman and leader of the Protestant Reformation in Scotland where he was considered the founder of the Presbyterian denomination.  He was also famous for developing a plan for a national educational system in Scotland, thus re-laying the foundations of education.  His influence was eventually felt in England and even more so in America.  Knox’s “Book of Discipline” influenced the reestablishment of schools even though it was never formally adopted by the Scottish parliament (Eby, 273).  He argued that schools and colleges should erected and maintained so the “youthe may be trained in the knowledge and feare of God” in order to be faithful servants of Christ and godly citizens (Eby, 275).

Knox’s national educational system provided for schools to be financed by the accumulated wealth of the church and monasteries, which were being overthrown in Scotland, but the nobles refused to approve this financial scheme because they wanted to divide the spoils for themselves (Eby, 275).  This national system was based on the Calvinistic principles of schools being under state and church control.  Knox wanted family instruction, church instruction, parish schools, grammar schools, and universities under careful supervision so the youths of Scotland could receive a good education.  The primary goal of Knox’s education was to teach every person how to read the Bible.

Although the Scottish parliament rejected Knox’s educational system, it still impacted Scotland, England, and America.  Knox’s influential can also be felt in modern times through the systematical way the American schools have been established.  However, Knox himself remains a controversial figure in history.  Over the centuries, historians and educators have both praised and defamed Knox’s work in education (Kyle & Johnson, 1).  Even today, the Scottish people seem to have forgotten their great leader because Knox’s grave lies unmarked in the middle of a parking lot.

Despite the controversy, Knox’s impact on education has several valuable points.  Students should receive a Bible-based education so they can understand the Scriptures for themselves.  Teachers should be carefully trained in order to provide a quality education to their students.  However, Christian education should be only church-based, but not church and state.  The state seldom agrees with the church on what should be taught as can be seen in the history of education in America.  The founding educators in America adopted many of Knox’s principles, and their influence can still be seen today in the American Christian school system.

– Hannah S. Bowers


Eby, F. (1971). Early Protestant educators: The educational writings of Martin Luther, John Calvin, and other leaders of Protestant thought (pp. 273-297). New York, NY: Ames Press.

Kyle, R. G., & Johnson, D. W. (2009). John Knox: An introduction to his life and works. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock.