Re: in their defense
Knowing all that we know now, this may not have been the best way to teach. However, we need to defend the people who set this system up, because before that, only well-off people (or those who were going to be religious leaders) received any education at all, and they were doing the best they knew how to do.
This change from "education for the rich" to "education for everyone" was a radical change. (Not a slight change, or a minor change, but radical change.)
I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.