Piarists

   A small Catholic teaching order, the Piarists have played an important role in the development of education in Austria. The order was founded in Rome during the 16th century and in 1597 used a rectory there for the first free public school in Europe. The papacy recognized the order in 1617.
   As part of her reform of teaching and school curricula in the 18th century, Empress Maria Theresa and her advisers adopted much of a program suggested by Gratian Marx (1720–1810), the director of a Piarist academy in Savoy. Although his ideas included clerical control of schools, they also called for giving more weight to subjects such as history, geography, arithmetic, and German. Classical languages began to lose their centrality in the curriculum, though Latin remained a required examination subject for admission to a gymnasium or high school. The schools were theoretically open to all, though the academic qualifications of young nobles and sons of civil servants were far less rigorously scrutinized than those from humbler classes. The Piarists operated 24 high schools in Austria during the 18th century and sponsored dramatic offerings of high literary quality. In the 19th century, they were at the center of a Catholic social movement that addressed the needs of the urban industrial classes.
   See also Christian Social Party.

Historical dictionary of Austria. . 2014.

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