April 17, 2013

Case File #013.04.17: PEDAGOGUE

The ancient Greek word paidagogos, the oldest ancestor of the English pedagogue, was formed from a combination of the words paidos, meaning “boy” or “child,” and agogos, meaning “leader.” Thus, paidagogos literally meant “leader of children,” and the term was indeed applied to slaves who were charged with leading their owners' children to and from school and on other outings. When the word later passed into Latin as paedagogus, its meaning shifted from “leader of children” to “tutor of children,” and when the Old French borrowed it from the Latin, the spelling became pedagogue and the meaning became “professional educator of children.” English finally adopted the Old French term in the mid-fourteenth century, retaining the spelling and initially the meaning. It wasn't until circa 1585—after the variant pedagogy was formed—that the English word pedagogue was applied to all professional educators rather than just those who teach children, and it wasn't until the twentieth century that the term came to be applied, often disparagingly, to those teachers who are particularly formal, strict, or pedantic.

©2013 Michael R. Gates

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