From James M. Kittleson's Luther the Reformer: The Story of the Man and His Career, pp. 36-37:
[Martin Luther] looked back at his early education with little but disgust. Sixteenth-century schoolmasters by no means saw their task as drawing forth the best and most creative efforts from their charges. Luther was not quite five years old when he entered a school whose sole purpose was to force the students to learn to read and write Latin in preparation for their later studies. The methods used by his teachers were consistently condemned as “barbaric” by great educators such as Erasmus of Rotterdam. Coercion and ridicule were chief among their techniques. Any child caught speaking German was beaten with a rod. The one who had done least well in the morning was required to wear a dunce’s cap and was addressed as an ass all afternoon. Demerits were then added up for the week, and each student went home with one more caning to make the accounts balance.The 20-21st century education Refomation repeatedly characterizes traditional 20th century classrooms as being like these. Minus the beatings and canings, perhaps, but just as stifling of creativity and demeaning of self-esteem, with a deathly dull curriculum consisting of meaningless memorization and drill.
Under these conditions, all that the children knew for certain was that they wanted to avoid the beatings and the dunce’s cap. But the curriculum was so dull that students found little incentive to meet even this modest objective. Music was the subject that Luther preferred, and in time he became a skilled performer and composer. But not even music was taught so that children might enjoy it, much less that they might express themselves. They were taught music because they had to sing in the church choirs.
Most of the time was spent on Latin, for which these poor beginners had only a primer and lists of words to memorize. To accomplish this task, they also learned by heart the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments, and the Apostles’ Creed. When they had learned enough Latin, they were allowed to proceed to the second class. There they were introduced to the joys of memorizing declensions and conjugations. And the teacher’s rod followed them. Luther was caned 15 times in only one morning for not having mastered the tables of Latin grammar.
Perhaps they are beating a 16th century straw man?