John Locke: 3 Ways His Philosophy Changed Modern Education

John Locke's philosophies radically shaped education
Born29th of August, 1632
Died28th of October, 1704
Famous Quote“To love truth for truth’s sake is the principle part of human perfection in this world, and the seed-plot of all other virtues.”
Known ForSignificant philosopher of liberty, self governance, and shaper of modern education
Region of WorldEngland, 17th century

John Locke remains one of the most influential philosophers of our modern time. Of his hundreds of impacts that changed history perhaps one of the biggest is his impact on our modern education system.

There are 3 ways in which John Lock impacted the modern education system. First, John Lock revolutionized the study of epistemology or how the mind gathers knowledge. Second, Locke Created The Modern Education System By Combining Ethics, Physical Training, And Reason. Third, John Locke emphasized that both women and men should be given access to the same levels of education.

John Locke’s influence would continue to grow several centuries after his death. Today Locke remains one of the most influential philosophers of all time. Several of his ideas helped to inspire the creation of the United States.

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Without further ado, here are the 3 ways John Lock’s philosophy changed modern education.

John Locke Revolutionized the Theory Of Epistemology Or How The Mind Gathers Knowledge

One of the major ways in which John Lock changed modern education was by creating new theories on how the mind gathered knowledge.

This field is called Epistemology and it concerns studying how humans learn and process more information. This field is the primary one that modern teachers and educators must study to start their careers.

However, before John Locke the concept of education was limited by the current theories of his time. The main theory that everyone followed was one that explained that humans were born knowing certain foundations of the world.

These foundations that humans were born with could be the concept of self or the concept of movement. Humans would not have to be taught these concepts as they would be born with them innately.

This theory of a human having innate ideas was called rationalism.

Locke however would turn the education world on its head by introducing a new idea. John Locke was the first philosopher that theorized that the concept of self was created from life experiences and not an innate learned concept obtained at birth.

Locke’s theory was revolutionary. He argued that at birth the human mind was in fact a tabula rasa or blank slate. That all knowledge gained by a person would be gained from life experiences.

As a result Lock would provide the foundation for the modern education system by creating this concept of tabula rasa. Today children are brought into the classrooms and taught the same concepts with an expectation that they know nothing.

What we can see here is the foundation of our modern education system. Today young children are taught from an early age in a grade system around the world. They will progress at the same speed and learn the same stuff. In turn, according to Locke, these children will grow up to possess the same knowledge.

It was John Locke’s new theory of how the mind gathered knowledge that created the modern education system that we see today.

As a result, this remains one of the main ways in which John Locke forever changed modern education.

Locke Created The Modern Education System By Combining Ethics, Physical Training, And Reason.

Another one of the ways in which John Locke forever changed modern education was by combining ethics, physical training, and reason.

To John Locke the concept of education should start at birth and continue up for the entirety of a person’s life. Further, this education should resemble all forms of learning.

Before John Lock the education system in the west was built around studying ancient classical texts and learning theology. This was backwards according to Locke as it did not allow individual talents of students to be cultivated.

Some students would be better at physical activities while others would be better at logic and reason. John Locke would set out to create an education system that allowed for all students to demonstrate excellence in a variety of subjects.

In his book Some Thoughts Concerning Education John Locke provides the following system of education. This system of education should focus on training 3 core aspects of a person.

First, body and mind. According to Locke both the body and mind should be trained continuously by parents to allow their children’s natural talents to shine. However, Locke weighed more importance on training the body before the mind. This would produce a solid temperament to the physical world by the child.

Second, virtue and reason. Locke believed that virtue and reason should be taught from an early age. This would give educated people the ability to discern truth from lies. Further, it would force students into thinking rationally over the course of their life.

Third, after achieving the first two goals students should then be taught an academic curriculum. This curriculum should be beneficial towards the students’ life. For example, in Locke’s time astronomy, geography, and medicine would be worth teaching while music, theology, and mysticism would not.

Today Locke forever changed our education system by providing a roadmap for all students and their parents to follow. When a child enters school for the first time they are taught according to the same principles that Locke first outlined almost four centuries ago.

John Locke Believed Both Women And Men Should Be Given Access To The Same Levels Of Education.

Another one of the main ways in which John Locke changed our modern education system was by advocating for equal educational opportunities for both men and women.

John Locke was writing in the late 17th century. During a time period where only the male gentry of society would be given an education.

To Locke this was backwards. In two of his most famous publications An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, and Some Thoughts Concerning Education Locke outlines how apart from physical there were no differences in mental aptitude between men and women.

Therefore both men and women should be given the same educational opportunities. Locke was one of the first proponents of this nearly 4 centuries ago.

Today Locke has forever changed our modern education system by putting into place gender neutral education opportunities. As a result of this remains one of the main ways in which John Locke forever changed our modern education system.


There you have it; an entire article dedicated to how John Lock changed modern education.

John Locke lived during a time of absolute monarchy in the British Empire. However, his works laid the foundation for several of the most important events of the 18th century. This includes laying the foundation for modern education as well as the American Revolution.

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Further, you can check out some of the other articles below. 

Until next time,


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