The teaching was thus exclusively Text teaching. The teacher had little or nothing to say for himself (at least in the earliest period). He was even restricted in the remarks he might make by way of commentary. He was as nearly as possible a machine.
But lastly, to complete the view of the first period, we must add the practice of Disputation, of which we shall have a better idea from the records of the next period. This practice was co-eval with the Universities; it was the single mode of stimulating the thought of the individual student; the chief antidote to the mechanical teaching by Text-books and dictation.
The pre-Reformation period of Aberdeen University was little more than sixty years. For a portion of those years it attained celebrity. In 1541, the town was honoured by a visit from James V., and the University contributed to his entertainment. The somewhat penny-a-lining account is, that there were exercises and disputations in Greek, Latin, and other languages! The official records, however, show that the College at that very time had sunk into a convent and conventual school.
The Reformation introduced the second period, and made important changes. First of all, in the great convulsion of European thought, the ascendancy of Aristotle was shaken. It is enough to mention two incidents in the downfall of the mighty Stagyrite. One was the attack on him by the renowned Peter Rainus, in the University of Paris. Our countryman, Andrew Melville, attended Ramus’s Lectures, and became the means of introducing his system into Scotland. The other incident is still more notable. The Reformers had to consider their attitude towards Aristotle. At first their opinion was condemnatory. Luther regarded him as a very devil; he was “a godless bulwark of the Papists”. Melancthon was also hostile; but he soon perceived that Theology would crumble into fanatical dissolution without the co-operation of some philosophy. As yet there was nothing to fall back upon except the pagan systems. Of these, Melancthon was obliged to confess that Aristotle was the least objectionable, and was, moreover, in possession. The plan, therefore, was to accept him as a basis, and fence him round with orthodox emendations. This done, Aristotle, no longer despotic, but as a limited constitutional monarch, had his reign prolonged a century and a half.
[NEW SUBJECTS INTRODUCED BY MELVILLE.]
THE MODIFIED CURRICULUM—ANDREW MELVILLE.