John Locke: an Influential Person in History

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John Locke was the founder of a school of thought called British Empiricism, which means all knowledge is from our senses. His most influential work is the Essay Concerning Human Understanding in which he offered an analysis of the mind and knowledge. Although Locke is thought of as an education pioneer, in his later years he focused his attention on theology (Connelly).

Biographical Information:

        John Locke was born on August 26, 1632 in Wrington, which is a small village in southwestern England, and he died October 28, 1704. He attended Westminster School in London which focused on math, geography, Arabic, Latin, Hebrew, and Greek. He was awarded the King's Scholar award in 1650 which allowed him to buy classic books in Latin and Greek. Locke was an outstanding student but did not enjoy school. He went to the University of Oxford but found the curriculum stale because it focused on Aristotle's logic and ignored the new and important knowledge being discovered. While at Oxford he met many advocates of the new science and collaborated with them in their research. After the restoration of the English monarchy in 1660, Locke wrote two political works Two Tracts on Government and Two Treatises of Government. In 1663 he became the senior censor in Christ Church which required him to supervise undergraduate students and give lectures. Locke then began to write on his educational and philosophical beliefs (Gillard 2018).


In the 17th century, during Locke's life, classical languages were learned through intense memorization exercises and corporal punishment (Connelly). Both rich boys and girls were educated. Either in separate boarding schools or by private tutors for boys, and by mothers for girls. Anyone could be a teacher because they taught what they knew. However according to Locke, "If you want highly qualified teachers, select them carefully and pay them well" (Gibbon). Locke believed that children learn best when they are engaged in the subject, and they should be able to seek their own interests and somewhat choose their course of study. He also thought curriculum should include practical knowledge (Connelly).


John Locke proposed the Epistemological Theory, Blank Slate Theory or Tabula Rasa, which states that humans are born with their minds completely empty, so they learn from their environment and surroundings. This went against philosophical tradition which states human beings are born with human nature. He believed every person is an author of their character. Locke also created the idea of simple and complex knowledge. Simple knowledge is the knowledge from the world that cannot be broken down. Complex knowledge is all the concepts assembled from simple knowledge (C. 2018). Before we can interpret the world and access it, we must know aspects about ourselves and how to obtain knowledge. Locke wanted methods to be incorporated into schools that would help with understanding the difference between right and wrong, so the children could eventually develop a moral sense (Connelly).

Things in schools today that are connected:

        Many of John Locke's contributions are connected to schools today which has made him an educational pioneer. Locke thought very highly of practical knowledge, and it is still very important in schools. Teachers teach the basics that every child should know, so they can thrive in the world. Children learn best when they are engaged. When children, especially young students, sit in a classroom and do not move all day, they will not learn effectively. If the classroom is inviting and the lesson being taught is presented in a meaningful way, students will most likely learn better. Student interest is also very important in schools today. Due to the way classrooms are set up, teachers have their students' interests in their minds and want what is best for them. Teachers want them to learn and love it. Project based learning is an example of student interests being important. Another example is morals being taught in schools. It might not be directly taught, but children will learn right from wrong. Simple and complex knowledge is still used today. Children are taught simple knowledge first, which is the concepts that cannot be broken down. They are then taught complex knowledge, which is all the concepts they have learned connected to each other.


John Locke was an influential person to the educational system. He proposed the Blank Slate Theory which means knowledge is derived from our senses, environment, and surroundings. He believed children should enjoy going to school and learning. Students' interests are extremely important, however, practical knowledge and learning something a child might not want to learn is imperative.

Works Cited

  1. (2018, August 28). John Locke: His Libertarian Philosophy In 5 Short Films. Retrieved September 4, 2018,from
  2. Connolly, P. J. (n.d.). John Locke (1632-1704). Retrieved September 15, 2018, from
  3. Gibbon, P. (2018, June 20). John Locke: An Education Progressive Ahead of His Time? Retrieved September 4, 2018, from
  4. Gillard, D. (n.d.). Education in England - Chapter 4. Retrieved September 9, 2018, from 
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John Locke: An Influential Person In History. (2019, Jul 30). Retrieved March 5, 2024 , from

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